Order and chaos…


Pattern recognition is hardwired in our brains. There are innumerable patterns in nature — from a honeycomb to the spirals of a seashell. The structure of molecules. Music is a series of audible patterns and variations on a theme. Patterns define order within our seemingly chaotic world.

     I’ve been working with patterns that repeat for a few years now, intending to use the designs for fabric, wallpaper and other surfaces. All of these images began with a selection of small tiles that contain a single element — a curve, a straight line, a right angle — the structural elements that can be combined in different ways to create patterns that repeat. I work primarily with variations of Truchet tiles.

     As my process evolved, I began making patterns in which the elements repeated in unusual ways. I use a grid to maintain the structure, but within the grid it became something of a free-for-all. The basic elements repeated, but I created an unpredictability in the larger pattern. The patterns do tile perfectly, but the repeat is not readily apparent.

     My patterns actually began to look like chaos. When I combined them with images from the natural world, in my digital prints, it got real interesting. Chaos imposed itself on the patterns to the point that the patterns themselves almost disappeared in the mist. I don’t see order and chaos as opposite ends of a spectrum, I see order and chaos as coexisting and interacting on every level. 

     My inspiration for these images comes from both music and art. The great jazz music of Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, and many others — in particular, the amazing Sun Ra, is made visible in these images (note some titles). Sol Lewitt and Piet Mondrian are some of my artistic predecessors.

     Happy to discuss my process or artwork anytime. Email: bill@billcooke.com

— Bill