Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Drawing By Alexander Smith ©

Recently I went to the opening of a local artists exhibition of paintings. The artist was Joanne Hardy and the exhibition was a sell out. One of paintings that intrigued me was a landscape with a number of rectangles superimposed, floating all over the canvas. The painting was called “The Bare Bones”.

Looking at the size and shape of the rectangles, my take on the meaning was that it was a painting making reference to the “Golden Rectangle” This rectangle has a particular ratio of the length of the short side to the length of the long side. Whatever the length of the long side the short side will have to divide into the long side 1.618 times for the triangle to be a “Golden Rectangle”. This rectangle has a particular harmony to it, a particular balance.

The face of the Mona Lisa fits into a golden rectangle, as does the Parthenon, the floor plan of the tomb of Ramses IV, as do groupings of subjects in many classical and modern paintings. This ratio is well known and is used consciously by artists. The French artist Le Corbusier committed himself to using golden proportions in his work as did Seurat, Durer and Mondrian. What is also interesting is that golden proportions are clearly visible in nature.

The profile of a chicken egg fits into a golden rectangle, as do certain types of sea shells. Many evergreen trees grow to fit neatly within boundaries of a golden rectangle. Golden proportions and ratios can be seen in animal horns, ocean waves, galaxies, pinecones, ferns and sea horses.

Now the golden proportions are the function of a sequence of numbers called Fibonacci numbers. (Fee – buh – NOTCH – ee).The sequence begins with 1 (0 + 1) with each number that follows being the sum of the previous two numbers:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 ..........

To see one of an absolute myriad of examples in nature of Fibonacci numbers look into the head of a mature sunflower. “We can observe two distinctly different spirals of seeds, one going clockwise, and the other going counterclockwise….the usual number of spirals in a sunflower head is 34 going one way and 55 going the other. Giant sunflowers have 55 going one way and 89 going the other. Other sunflowers have 55 going one way and 89 going the other. Other sunflowers have been reported as having 89 and 144, or 144 and 233” ---- All of these are adjacent Fibonacci numbers!

So within the arrangement of creation there seems to be a pattern, I hope it is a blessed pattern rather than a random one. One thing is sure, Hamlet was correct when he said “And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”


Anonymous said...

Surely the pattern must be blessed- it is so intelligent and so beautiful.
Your entry made me smile inside.Thank you.

Alden Smith said...

Yes, I think it is blessed, though the exact nature of that blessedness is intellectually problematic for us humans. I think sometimes that we (or more specifically me) are like a small boy or girl who pulls the wings off a butterfly to find out how it works - the beauty goes and all that's left is a mess.

In the end all we really, really have is faith and love - the ultimate answers are for another time and place.