Peering into sacred symmetry with Christine Romanell
Artist Christine Romanell brings the hidden mathematics of the world to life in a radial, colorful way. Having been inspired by sacred geometry and intriguing mathematical laws, her artworks are numerically and traditionally symbolic but also captivating to the eye. In addition to science, islamic art has greatly influenced her creations, as she explains to us.
Q & A - Christine Romanell
In your artwork, how do you represent nonrepeating patterns observed in cosmology and physics? What inspired you to start doing this?
I was not satisfied making abstract paintings using repetitive marks. In an effort to move beyond the edge of the canvas, I explored different types of patterns. I came across the Penrose tiling created by mathematician/ physicist Dr. Roger Penrose. This pattern uses two rhomb shapes - one skinny and one fat - that tessellate covering the space of a plane completely with no gaps and never repeats. The angles of the rhombs follow a 72, 108, 72, and 108 degree rotation.
Rotational symmetry repeats difference (not sameness like your typical square bathroom tile.) Non-repeating patterns appeal to me because they allude to the infinite. The human perspective of reality limits the experience of infinity since there is always a boundary that we cannot see beyond. Each of my pieces work to break the barrier for the eye, albeit unsuccessfully, with hopes to allow the imagination to fill in the possibilities of what is beyond.
Your pieces look impressively geometric and precise. Please take us through the technical and creative process involved in producing your works.
The most important factors for me are light and motion in the final work. I want the observer to be pulled into a visual gravity well. I use Adobe Illustrator for sketching and color choice which allows me a tremendous amount of precision.
Without that precision the illusion wouldn’t be as powerful. Usually, I start with a single shape: either a rectangle, ellipse or a freeland form.
Using a variety of degree angles for rotation, I step and repeat the form until it completes a circle.
Once I land on a pattern that feels balanced and harmonious, I move onto working out the color and separate the digital drawing into layers. At this point, the design is ready to be sent out to be laser cut. My three main materials are wood, plexi glass and paper. I work with the fabricator for materials selection and sometimes the Illustration needs adjustment before it can be cut.
Once I receive the cuts back - usually 16 or more layers of material - I paint and glue everything together for the final work. Each stage requires attention to detail to bring out the beauty in the pattern.
“Sacred geometry visualizes a number in space that is holding a deeper meaning connected to the origins of creation... The self-similarity of rotational symmetry is a key device that I employ in my work.”
How is your art influenced by Islamic patterning and forms of sacred geometry? Do fractals play a role too?
As a teenager, I visited Seville (Spain) and saw Islamic tiles for the first time. I gazed up at the intricate patterns on the ceilings of old mosques, feeling like I was looking up at the stars, into infinity itself.
Sacred geometry visualizes a number in space that is holding a deeper meaning connected to the origins of creation.
The goal of the ceilings in mosques is to bring a feeling of god/the sacred to the faithful. Little did I know then how much that experience would influence me as an artist. The Penrose tiling is similar to the girih tiling found in mosques in Iran. Both are considered a fractal pattern.
The tiles can be scaled up or scaled down using the Golden Ratio. Also, the tiles can be ‘decorated’ mathematically, meaning the forms can be divided using the Golden Ratio which also points to the fractal nature of the tilings. The self-similarity of rotational symmetry is a key device that I employ in my work.
For example, in “Setaareh Do” (2019) [first page of article] I use the penrose tiling as a base but then ‘decorate’ the tiles by dividing them. Moving on from such a direct interpretation, a recent piece “Conjunction” (2020) [previous page], uses rotational symmetry for the main form and then the golden ratio for deflation of the satellites.
How has the pandemic affected your art practice and what are your next plans for the future?
It’s not been nearly as bad as I thought it would be from an artistic viewpoint. I’ve been more productive this year, than before Covid. My laser cutting fabricator had to shut down because of the pandemic, so I had to find another way to work.
I had time and space to explore new material. I investigated the capabilities of a desktop digital paper cutting machine. Using layers of paper and acrylic gouache, I was able to produce small works on paper. It’s a nice way to work and experiment with designs before I move onto the more expensive wood or plexiglass fabrications.
I had a solo show scheduled for March 2021 in New Jersey, but the museum closed down because of Covid. Right now, I’m quarantining because my husband just tested positive for the virus. We are all symptom-free at the moment and hoping it stays that way. I expect to get back into the studio as soon as our quarantine period is over and put 2020 behind me (as I’m sure many people hope to do as well.) I have a residency scheduled in November 2021 at Chateau d’Orquevaux in France and am hopeful that I’ll be able to attend.
Christine Romanell creates unique mathematical works of art inspired by forms found in sacred geometry, tradition and science.
Radial, mathematically accurate, and colorfully mesmerising, Chrsitine captivates the beauty of the mathematical world. Like many, she looks to leave the year of 2020 in the past when she begins a new chapter in 2021 - at Chateau d’Orquevaux in France.
Christine Romanell’s colorful wall sculptures and installations explore non-repeating patterns informed by cosmology and physics, while rooting itself in applied design similar to Islamic patterning. Her use of rotational symmetry to generate dimensional forms allude to movement and create an event horizon - a space where the infinite tessellations of universal physics can intersect with patterns - collapsing the divide between the theoretical and the real.