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Mandalas, in many cultures, are utilised as physical representations of internal spaces of consciousness. As maps to define regions of the mind, they pertain to the universal whole or the absolute reality. By directing visualisation to the interior spaces of the observer’s mind, the mandala contributes a non-Western perspective on the two-dimensional mapping of physical space with its portrayal of metaphysical, multidimensional experiential space.


In the case of Mark Cullen's mandala , the mandala is describing a geometric form that is a base unit of a fivefold aperiodicity in both two and three dimensions. It is taken from an electron diffraction pattern of icosahedral Ho-Mg-Zn quasicrystal – a form that has been recently found to exist in nature following its discovery in the lab in 1981 by subsequent nobel prize winner Dan Shechtman. This pattern is consistent with arrangements of Penrose tiles and the sacred geometry of Islamic tiling from the 13th century, which both exhibit self-similarity, a feature of fractal geometry.


Aperiodicity is a very special characteristic that offers the potential to carry vast quantities of information within a repetitive structure. Indeed it is the very condition on which life is based in this planet. As predicted by Erwin Schrodinger in his lecture at Trinity College, the material carrier of life would be an aperiodic crystal and so it was discovered to be true, as our DNA that is shared by every living organism on this world exhibits these properties.


Within the aperiodic tiling Cullen has noticed the motif pattern of the Romanian artist Constantin Branchusi’s Infinite Column. As a modular pattern of repeating lozenges, that preoccupied the artist throughout his career, it resonates with the axis mundi of many world cultures, which is believed to be representative of the tree of life, or in many cultures the spiral ladder that connects the heavens with the earth. Recent research by Jeremy Narby draws a strong correlation between DNA as a light emitting molecule and with the visions of twisted snakes that inform pharmacological knowledge and worldview of Amazonian shamanic culture.


In drawing these few connections, overlaps and points of confluence Cullen makes a short case for considering the richness and depth of potential that can be explored through parallel modes of perception and interpretation, as the complexity of the story that is told and retold, reformed and renewed, intertwines into a fuller picture of what existence is and what it means to be us.


Artist's Talk

4pm, Dec 12, Room E0.01, O' Brien Centre for Science


Mark Cullen will lead an illustrated talk/discussion[delete one as appropriate] on the scientific, literary and cultural sources of inspiration that informed Mandala – As within, so without. He will look at aspects of aperiodicity as they occur though science and culture from the recent discovery of quasi-crystals in nature to the existence of these patterns in thirteenth century Islamic sacred art and its connection to DNA and the tree of life.










An exhibition by Mark Cullen

UCD Science: Artist In Residence 2013


The Atrium, UCD O'Brien Centre for Science,

UCD Belfield, Dublin 4.

November – December 2014. Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 5pm.


Artist's Talk - 4pm, December 12th, Room E0.01, O' Brien Centre for Science

Mandala – As within, so without

Fivefold aperiodic pattern punched through black plastic sheet.14m tall.

Mark Cullen, 2014

Parking: Recommended off campus.



1, 11,17, 25x, 27x, 32x, 39a, 41x, 46a, 47, 51x, 66x, 67x, 77x, 84x,

142, 145


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UCD O'Brien Centre: Building number 64 on the map.