Essay 22 - In Defence of Geometric Life-like Tessellations

Essay 22 

In Defence of Geometric Life–like Motifs


A typical phrase in compiling animal-esque tessellation is that of ‘like-like’. People use this interchangeably to describe their tessellations in variety of ways, from formless, shapeless blobs with mere surface embellishment, all the way to a silhouette that is indistinguishable from a real-life motif. Recently, I have been taken to task by a correspondent  for using this phrase to describe some of my own that are not strictly life-like, in that they consist, of the exterior lines, of straight lines, described simply as ‘geometrics’, rather than the more natural subtle ‘meanderings’ of a real-life motif. As such, I consider these geometrics a bona fide type of tessellation (whilst others do not), albeit with due reservation. The essay thus gives my defence of such types.

Geometric Tiles
In one of my favourite types of animal-esque tessellations I make frequent usage of a geometric tile, these consisting of a series of straight lines (typically made to resemble birds, and to a lesser extent, fish), that can arguably be said not to be life-life, on account of their geometric nature, which no real-life motif possesses. Previously, I have discussed the merits and ideals of life-life tessellations, where the outline is made indistinguishable from the real-life motif, and so one can perhaps argue that these more ‘severe’ (geometric) types thus possess shortcomings in comparison. Indeed, this is a fair point, as no real life-life animate motif consists of such geometric lines. However, this misses the point. The point I am making here is that how much one can achieve with so little, in that a very simple geometric line, of very few elements, typically of just two or three lines, can, with relative ease, be made to resemble birds and fish of inherent quality (and not just surface embellishment) with the bare minimum of discreet lines. As such, I consider these stand comparison on their own merits, of which the term ‘life-like’ is still applicable, in that the motifs are believable, despite their contrived nature.
    This has parallels with other art forms, in that, to greater or lesser extent, these are of a contrived nature. For instance, a cartoon is generally regarded as a low art form, at least in comparison to, say, a work by an old master. However, one is not comparing like for like here. Of their respective types, both have advantages and disadvantages, Firstly, the cartoon is a representation of a motif with the bare minimum of lines, in which the challenge is to portray the motif with a minimum of detail, in effect distilling the essence of the motif. Secondly, the old master is a painstaking representation, with attention paid to fine detail, such as three dimensions and shading. In their own way, given inherent quality, both are excellent as artworks. As such, I consider these ‘geometrics’ to be are very much in the same spirit as the cartoon type. No one would say a cartoon portrays a real–life motif, and yet is nonetheless regarded as life-like. The same, to me, applies to my ‘geometric’ types.
    Aside from the debate as regards their life-likeness, such types can arguably be said to be in a sense ‘ideal’, in that their geometrical (mathematical) nature more clearly reflects the geometrical (mathematical) premise of tessellation. That is, a free-form life-like representation is, strictly, incongruous, as the geometric type the more better represent the underlying mathematics. In any case, disregarding this geometric type as a single entity, one can look at these as stepping stones to a truer, subtly curved motif, in which one progresses in a series of steps. Beginning with a geometric motif, this is then followed a truer representation, by a arc version, and then finally a free-form motif. This is discussed in my Bridges paper of 2008, A Guide to Creating Escher-like Bird Motif Tessellations.
    So, although geometrics are undeniably not life-like, they still retain enough of merit as to be worthy of inclusion in the tessellation family.

Agree or disagree? E-me.

Created: 8 July 2010