As early as the 4th century BC, Artists have used mathematics for the derivation of visual arts. A typical example is when the Greek sculptor, Polykleitos wrote his Canon, prescribing proportions based on the ratio 1:√2 for the ideal male nude. However, centuries later, a brand new relationship was formed between both entities, when String Arts was birthed.
String arts has its origins in the ‘curve stitch’ activities invented by Mary Everest Boole at the end of the 19th century to make mathematical ideas more accessible to children. It was popularized as a decorative craft in the late 1960s through kits and books and very soon, people decorated their interiors with arts of this kind, as a symbol of aesthetic prowess, style and opulence.
String arts, is characterized by an arrangement of colored thread, strung between points to form geometric patterns or representational designs such as a ship’s sails– sometimes with other artist material comprising the remainder of the work. Thread, wire, or string is wound around a grid of nails hammered into a velvet-covered wooden board. Though straight lines are formed by the strings, the slightly different angles and metric positions at which strings intersect gives the appearance of Bézier curves (as in the mathematical concept of envelope of a family of straight lines).
The world has witnessed the emergence and stay of many great string artists like Nike Savvas, Gabriel Dawe, Chiharu Shiota, Pae White, San Pierre and Kumi Yamashita. However, there’s a slight strain as the African Art industry is quite deficient of popular string artists. There are lots of string artworks that indelibly portray the peculiar African culture, but many of these works do not even have an apparent watermark or signature. Works like these fly all over the internet and we find it hard to attribute names to them. When we go for African Art exhibitions, we see paintings, sculptures, collages, etcetera, but it’s not so easy to find an exhibition that really borders extensively around String Arts. All these come together to express the scarcity of String artists in our very own Africa.
In our “quick survey”, the only prominent African artist that we found who specializes extensively in String Art is Pierre Le Riche.
Based in Cape Town, South Africa, conceptual artist, Pierre Le Riche is known for using colorful threads in innovative and thought-provoking ways. “His incredible Rainbow Room installation—built from 17km of acrylic thread—is a juxtaposition between homosexuality and masculinity. It represents a traditional Afrikaan family living room in the midst of the 1995 rugby world cup final match, where 150 rugby balls and every piece of furniture was covered in rainbow-colored yarn.”
Other works by Pierre Le Riche include:
Labyrinth in Primary Colours, 2020. Acrylic and cotton thread on canvas.
43 x 44 cm.
Circling the Answers, 2020. Acrylic and cotton thread on canvas.
57 x 79.5 cm.
Tartan Gradient in Red, 2020. Cotton and acrylic thread on canvas.
77 x 63.5 cm.
Sunrise on Repeat, 2020. Cotton thread on canvas.
135 x 87 cm.
Many other artists work with thread, but the major string department? Not really. Here are other works by string artists whose names we are yet to find. And yes, when we find them, you’ll be the very first to know. *winks*