What do math, nature and ancient cultural symbols have in common?

“Spirals,” says Amirul Alwi, a contemporary artist, who is active in the field of installation work.

In his latest works, he winds thread to nails and circles them in, using mathematical progressions like the Fibonacci sequence and multiplication tables. As a result, Amirul created a series of patterns much like how a knitter follows a pattern manual.

“What I am trying to demonstrate here is how a visual pattern can be made based on the movement of the rotation numbers at each point of a circular shape and geometry,” explains Amirul, 25. His solo debut The Heart Of Mathematics at G13 gallery in Petaling Jaya, underlines his creative approach and thinking.

For Amirul, a Universiti Sains Malaysia fine art graduate, his exploration began with a former lecturer’s Facebook post, which depicted how a spiral pattern could be drawn out on a person’s hand using the lines of their palms.

Soon, Amirul began seeing spiral patterns everywhere, from the shadows of his mug handle to snail shells and the swirl of chocolate snacks.

An inspired Amirul set these ideas to art. The result is The Heart Of Mathematics, a series of eight sets of threaded circles set to ancient cultural symbols. Amirul, though primarily focused in painting and wood, chose to expand into thread (works) as it seemed to be the best way to realise his ideas. The circles are planted on wood boards, while numbers, written in Arabic, are painted to show what multiplication table he used.

The Heart Of Mathematics is on display at G13’s Project Room, a newly allocated space tucked within the gallery. The space is dedicated to new artists, and these shows run alongside group exhibits but still maintain the feeling of being a solo proper.

Amirul Alwi

Multiplication Time Table Of Number 2 (oil and emulsion paint, thread, nail on wood, 2017).

Amirul says he derived the show’s title from how the “heart” represents inner nature, while “mathematics” is something that goes beyond numbers to include shape and space. In combining both, he intends to reveal the hidden forms behind numbers.

In this interview, Amirul admits that he is no math wizard. The fact he chose to go into art says enough about his interest in math.

The Heart Of Mathematics, according to him, is a show that also provided him a personal spiritual experience. The labour intensive process behind the works – each circle taking up to three hours to thread – served as a form of meditation for him.

“These works consumed me. The larger the multiplier number, the longer it took because the pattern became more elaborate. But I just couldn’t stop midway or else the thread would run,” he says.

He doesn’t dismiss the fact that 3D rendering software would have made life easier. However, he reckons the physical effort and creative experience helped him to better understand The Heart Of Mathematics patterns (through form and feel).

In another leap of faith, the artist chose numbers for multiplication without testing what the resulting pattern would be.

“I was a surprised and pleased when 32 formed a circle in the middle,” he says referring to the piece Tree Of Life Composition 1.

Then again, why the black and white theme?

Amirul says it is mainly because this is his first series. He wasn’t sure if he wanted additional elements like coloured threads.

“I’m excited to have found these spirals in the numbers. Of course, I’d like to explore them further with more colours or dimensions. But we’ll hold that plan for another time,” he says.

The Heart Of Mathematics is on at G13 gallery, GL13, Ground Floor, Block B, Kelana Square, Jalan SS7/26, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya in Selangor till Oct 14. The gallery is open from 11am-5pm, and is closed on Sundays and public holidays. For more info: www.g13gallery.com. Call 03-7880 0991.