Repeated patterns, called tessellations, have fascinated humans for centuries, and examples of tessellations can be found in many cultures. The art of repeating patterns of one or more interlocking shapes to cover an area without gaps has been used in many different ways, such as mosaics, or even modern wallpaper designs. Tessellations cover floors and walls of palaces, and they can be seen in intricate pictures such as M.C. Escher's famous artworks.
Two Kinds of Tessellations
Tessellations can be representational, where an object such as a face is made by using many smaller pieces, such as in mosaics. Another form of tessellation is composed of only geometric patterns. These nonrepresentational tessellations can be simple stone paths or complex mosaic designs. The word tessellation is related to tesserae, the tiny pieces of stone used in mosaics.
In ancient Mesopotamia and Greece, tessellations in the form of mosaics began to appear about 3000 B.C. Intricate pictures and designs were created by using coloured square pieces of stone, and later tiles, for floors, walls and decorative architecture. During the 14th century, intricate mosaics were laid in the Alhambra in Spain, among many other buildings, as part of a growth of Moorish art and architecture.
Islamic art uses calligraphy, arabesque and geometrical patterns since the culture does not approve of representational art. Intricate patterns and geometric shapes in mosaic can be seen in palaces, mosques and ordinary homes.
Fabics and Paper
Geometric and Escher-style tessellations have been used to decorate fabrics and paper. Japanese fabrics used for kimono and other clothing items show tessellations in their weaving patterns. Beautiful papers are created with tessellations for use in origami art, folded into different shapes. In the West, tessellation is the basis for wallpaper designs, which are used extensively in home decor.