Escher Exhibit

There is an amazing exhibit titled “Escher Meets Islamic Art” currently on at the Tropenmuseum. We ventured off on the weekend for an insight into the inspiration for one of our favourite artists; M. C. Escher.

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Escher was born in Friesland, but it was on his travels through Spain where he fell in love with the Moorish influences in the architecture.

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It was while discovering Alhambra that he and his wife Jetta spent days copying the intricate and repetitive patterns they discovered in the tile work there.

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Based on intricate mathematical tessellations, the tile work offered near endless possibilities to Escher. It was what he had been unknowingly searching for.

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Escher became fascinated by the order and symmetry he found. He described his journey through the Mediterranean as “the richest source of inspiration I have ever tapped.”

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You can see how the pattern in the above window can be broken into both hexagons and triangles. The same base pattern has been utilised in the print below.

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Encouraged by his brother Berend, who introduced him to mathematicians and the concept of plane symmetry groups, Escher found his calling.

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Discussions with Canadian mathematician H.S.M. Coxeter inspired Escher’s interest in hyperbolic tessellations, which are regular tilings of the hyperbolic plane. Escher’s wood engravings Circle Limit I–IV demonstrate this concept. In 1959, Coxeter published his finding that these works were extraordinarily accurate: “Escher got it absolutely right to the millimetre.”

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The camel pictured below is an irregular tessellation. Almost every figure is unique.

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The tessellation in Escher’s print is also irregular. No animal or human is depicted twice. By consistently alternating black and white, and using an even number of figures, Escher evokes a suggestion of regularity. Escher himself said he could only make this print after years of practice in regular tessellation!

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It was an amazing and thought provoking exhibition! Though Himself and I have yet again been educated in how unwise it is to arrive at the tropenmuseum at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon! 2 hours is just not enough time in this gem of a museum!

The Escher Exhibit is on at the Tropenmuseum until the 3rd November, 2013.

Until next time!!!

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