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30 June 2021
The Art of Mathematical Illustration
Is illustration art? This question could start many discussions. For the purposes of this special issue, we assume that it is: the act of illustrating an abstract concept is itself an act of artistic communication. Whether in an image, an object, a video, a play, a dance, a piece of music or a book, the challenge of communicating subtle mathematical ideas, speaking to intuition as much as rigor, requires a diversity of skills and ideas beyond mathematics. From the diagrams in the earliest copies of Euclid, through the plaster models of Brill, to the animations of the Geometry Center, the illustration of mathematics has a long history. Yet it has also always held an awkward position, a little too mathematical (and illustrative) for art and a little too physical and practical for mathematics, especially in the twentieth century.
Finding a way to communicate an intuitive mathematical concept can be a very difficult problem, worthy of study in its own right. Illustration must rigorously contain the essential ideas of a mathematical abstract concept/process in necessarily concrete ways. This special issue seeks creative and innovative ways to reveal the beautiful ideas of mathematics. Of particular interest are papers that explore the inherent technical challenges. These may range from pure mathematics problems that arose in the process of translating the mathematics to the medium to the programming and engineering issues in creating the final piece.
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