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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Patterns, Geology and Art: the Invisible Landscapes of Enrico Serpagli

“Geology is a science of connection to our real environment, informed by the action of signs, a geosemiosis, that leads investigators on a fruitful course of hypothesis generation”

- Victor Baker (1999)

Keeping with Baker (1999), geological reasoning is inextricably tied to the objects of investigation. However, earth scientists are not only interested in geological objects, but in their spatial and temporal distribution too. For this reason, pattern finding is of vital importance for geologists. In fact, from the scale of the Benioff zone to the minute details of microfossils, regularities are crucial for interpreting geological processes.
Not surprisingly, geological eyes are particularly sensitive to patterns, as beautifully expressed by the art of Enrico Serpagli. Among the most influential Italian paleontologists, Enrico Serpagli is also a specialist in finding aesthetic patterns within natural and artificial objects.It is not a case that one of his exhibits was entitled “Il Senso dell’Ordine” (“The Sense of Order”), including astonishing patterns of colour and shape.

Patterns in the art of Enrico Serpagli. Photo from

 However, the detailed photographs of the artist are not mere recordings, but true visions of the invisible. This concept is expressed in his new exhibit, “Paesaggi Invisibili” (“Invisible Landscapes”), set in the historical town of Sassuolo (31 March – 22 April 2012; Paggeria Arte, Piazzale della Rosa, Palazzo Ducale, Sassuolo, Italy). Although the exhibit is not specifically devoted to geological themes, a geological ‘invisible landscape’ from Yellowstone is among the exhibited artworks.
From an analytical point of view, ‘Invisible Landscapes’ offers the amazing possibility of seeing the role of patterns for the geological artist. However, I prefer to be more emotional, and the exhibit is a structured walk through the invisible lands of Enrico Serpagli, the master of artistic patterns.

Invisible landscapes: geological processes photographed by Enrico Serpagli at Yellowstone.


Baker, V. (1999). Geosemiosis. GSA Bulletin, 111(5)

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