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School of Mathematical Sciences

When geometry meets art - In conversation with Giulia Ricci

We spoke to talented Italian-born, London-based artist Giulia Ricci, who created a series of artworks in the recently-refurbished School of Mathematical Sciences building. She discussed her passion for geometrical patterns and the challenges encountered as an artist while successfully delivering this ambitious project.

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After completing the project for the School of Maths, are you satisfied with the final result?

Overall, I would say yes. However, I find it hard to be completely satisfied with the artworks I make. If I were 100% satisfied, I wouldn’t feel the urgency to make another one. I think it’s just the way I function.

What have you learned from working on this project?

This project has strengthened my ability to be open, flexible and productive within a context where there is a continuous dialogue with numerous stakeholders; I enjoyed responding to this dialogue and negotiating for the benefit of the best possible outcome. While working on this project, I have engaged with many people with an exceptional focus on different areas of mathematics and their insights have been enriching.

How has this project been different from anything you’ve worked on before?

This was my first experience within an academic environment dedicated to mathematics. When I was invited to compete for the project, I was keen to win it precisely because of this specificity.

From art installations to detailed geometrical abstract work, where do you draw your inspiration from?

It’s a mix of past and present references, from art history and architecture to contemporary technology. Everything that resonates with my way of seeing attracts my attention. I am a very curious person.

How did your passion for geometrical patterns start?

I have always known I wanted to be an artist. My passion for geometrical patterns started as a very small child, as I was interested in the look and feel of textiles and nature. Then I saw Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna (in northern Italy, near my home town) on a school trip and an archaeological site with Roman mosaic floors in the countryside near my village, they both left a very strong impression on me. 

Do you have any stories or anecdotes related to this project?

I have purposely inserted an “error” in the wall drawing located in the foyer. Mathematicians often try to understand what patterns mean. Studying patterns is an opportunity to observe and experiment, so there is a design pattern among all the triangles that “breaks the rule”. Could you find where it is? Another funny story is that I found out by chance that the wall drawing’s design is similar to the patterns that can be found on the coffee cups served by the local coffee shop, as you can see in the picture.

What are your plans for the future?

At the time of writing, with the UK being in lockdown, all my exhibitions for the near future have been cancelled or postponed, so these and other projects that require being somewhere physically will have to wait. But I have other things to keep me occupied (alongside with homeschooling my five-year-old daughter, which is a very creative project in itself). I am expanding on a collaborative art and science project I recently worked on with a neuroscientist from the Wellcome Centre of Human Neuroimaging at UCL. And more generally I am planning to develop new skills and create meaningful connections from this unusual situation we are in. After all, I truly believe that limitations are the catalysts for developing possibilities.

Watch behind the scenes of Giulia's artwork at the School of Maths here.