THE VOCABULARY OF PERCEPTION AND DESIGN OF ISLAMIC GEOMETRIC PATTERNS
Free (open access)
149 - 160
This paper introduces a methodological distinction between three different scholarly interpretations of the forms and meanings of geometric ornaments in our heritage of Islamic art and architecture: an external cultural position, an esoteric religious argument, and an internal scientific approach. The major part of the paper is then directed beyond cultural allegiances or prescriptions of the Islamic faith and revolves instead around the internal formalistic and purely aesthetic aspects of reconstructing and making of geometric patterns, with the aim of exploring their vocabulary of perception, and their generative principles and inherent processes. The analysis starts at the very basic level where geometric patterns can be perceived as packing of open or enclosed surface polygons or linear configurations. Other means of perception relate to polygons’ apparent and inherent geometry, tone or colour, and the application of a quasi-third dimension either through figure-ground reversal or by perceiving linear designs as interlocking elements beyond the 2d plane. The paper then investigates the relationship between means of visual perception and the inherent repetition, geometry and symmetry of patterns on the level of constituent polygons, repetitive tiles, and the design as a whole. Beyond the narrow meanings of likeness and identity in bilateral symmetry, alternative concepts of symmetry are introduced and then applied in setting up a comprehensive vocabulary of 2d geometric patterns based on the classification discovered by crystallographers and developed by mathematicians. The paper concludes by demonstrating the power of combining geometric and symmetry systems in recreating traditional designs or generating new patterns.
geometric patterns, vocabulary of perception, generative principles, symmetry operations