Listening to individual, separate musical notes can be quite a dry experience, but arranging notes in a specific way, with their length and pitch fixed in a perfect blend, can ignite a new magical power that once was not there.
The same is true in the visual arts when it comes to producing something impressive out of the ordinary. I have found its use ever-present in Islamic arts.
You can see in the above illustration that a beautiful motif is created by simply replicating and rotating a particular Arabic letter in different geometrical values. In most cases, mind–boggling patterns and complex geometric structures are very simple at heart. In other words, the way you arrange elements is what makes the difference.
All above motifs are created with Arabic letter م (pronounced ‘meem’; equivalent of English letter ‘M’), written in Diwani script. The reason I employed just one letter is to demonstrate how much power a single element caters. Combining elements extend the possibilities.
The technique can be used in a number of different ways to produce aesthetically pleasing designs. It all depends on how deep you are willing to go. Only one part can create so much that it is difficult to believe that a labyrinthine pattern could ever have such humble beginnings.
I also use this technique in my projects every so often, especially in Arabic calligraphy where it adds to the beauty of design and produces stunning results. Two of my projects (Abul and Shinyol) might help you understand better. This technique particularly helps in making motifs, zillij, arabesque and vegetal patterns. Aziza Iqbal is one of the artists very well versed in this art, check out her work.
In this article, I discussed only rotation technique, and that too in a limited way. If you closely observe vegetal patterns and zellige art, you will find the use of many other techniques including tessellation, replication, mirroring and interlacing, to name but a few.
One of the thing in my back-burner list :) is to design a course that will help students to understand complex patterns by breaking them down into basic building blocks.