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Edited By: Aneesha Chandra

 

“We adore chaos because we love to produce order.”

 

Relativity. 

Day and Night. 

Hand With Reflecting Sphere.

 

These are the names of popular artworks that we have seen so many times on multiple types of media. They are popular images made by a not so popular man. Unlike Van Gogh, Vermeer, Michelangelo, M.F. Hussain, or Da Vinci, his name doesn’t naturally come to mind when we encounter one of his works. They are a publication staple which we seem to see everywhere and which never fail to catch our eye and, yet, we don’t know who made them. The mystery man in question is called M.C. Escher.

Maurits Cornelis Escher is undoubtedly one of the most interesting artists to have ever lived. I have been ardently smitten by his artwork from the first time I saw it. It was Relativity, his lithography on geometry and space and I think I came across it in a magazine.

 

 

That was a long, long time ago. I didn’t even think about how it was the result of a single mind  —  most likely sitting alone    furiously scratching away at stone, to let out the inspiration which had filled his brain to the brim with a crazy, but amazing, idea that needed to be pulled in, held forcibly by his mind, and brought to life. He might’ve ignored one or two cries of a hungry stomach because this was more important and who knew if the same inspiration would strike him again. And even if it did, would this unbending sense of purpose and belief which he had had in that precious moment return when he came back from lunch? Or would he have just dismissed it as a stupid idea with no meat or maybe he would have lost the ability to give this idea or inspiration a form for the world, and more importantly, for himself, to celebrate. I don’t know if it happened this way or not but in my mind, this is how I see it. If I’m being honest with myself, I have done away with thousands of ideas because of procrastination on bringing these ideas to life.      

 

And even if I have found the inspiration to start, I haven’t maintained the motivation to continue till the work was finished. Now Escher here was born in the Netherlands to an engineer and his wife. He was always a sick child and did not do well in studies. In fact, he failed the second grade and had to be put in a special school when he was just seven years old. When he grew up, he studied architecture for a while but then he failed in several papers    mainly due to a persistent skin infection   and had to switch to decorative arts.

In 1922, he went on a study tour to Italy and Spain, where he was highly taken with the geometrical patterns and repetitive colourful designs on the walls, tiles, and ceilings in the moorish architectural buildings he encountered. This influenced his own artwork where he incorporated patterns and geometry in his designs. His love for the Italian countryside and architecture led him to return and eventually settle down when he married Jetta Umiker in 1924. She was a Swiss woman who, like Escher, was in love with Italy. They had three sons together.

During World War II, the political climate in Italy under Mussolini became unbearable for Escher.  With his family, he left his beloved land and moved to Switzerland, where they lived for two years. It is said that this decision was triggered when Escher’s eldest son was forced to wear the uniform of Balila in school which was an Italian Fascist Youth Organisation. It was also during this time that he became obsessed with the mathematics of Tessellation. Tessellation is a process in which a plane surface is completely covered by a geometrical shape repeated again and again, leaving no gaps or spaces in between.

“Mathematicians have opened the gate leading to an extensive domain.”

 

 

His family had to move again, first to Belgium and then back to the Netherlands because of the war. By this time, he had stopped taking study tours and drawing out in the field. He retreated to his studio and focussed intently on his work. Most of his best-known artworks were made during this time. After 1953, when he was 55 years old, he started lecturing widely. In 1962, he fell sick again and had to cancel a series of lectures in America,even stopping creating artwork for a while.He created his last artwork in 1962, titled Snakes, which has several interlocking circles of various sizes in a disc shape with the illusion of infinite circles as we move to the centre of the disc. Moreover, there are three snakes curled up along on the outer part of the disc. Now, I could attempt to describe it in a deeper and more artistic way, or talk about about my perception of its purpose and meaning but I don’t think I can describe it better than this simple line on Escher’s wikipedia page: “The image encapsulates Escher’s love of symmetry, of interlocking patterns, and at the end of his life, of his approach to infinity.” At the very beginning of this article, I stated that we see his art everywhere. I have wondered why this is the case. If have to attempt to answer this question, I guess I would say that the reason is its versatility and the fact that his pieces are open to interpretation. They are simple in their titles and descriptions but maintain that factor of complexity which throws their whole purpose into question. They can’t be categorized into black or white but lie within a whole range of grey. They are flexible enough to shift their meaning with our different whims and moods.

 

 

Maybe it’s the stereotype of a tortured artist, but I still picture him leaning over his work table, etching his design desperately onto paper, with his equipment strewn around in a mess in the backdrop. To be honest, it very well could’ve just been him sitting peacefully, at night, after dinner, holding a cigar in his hand, thinking calmly of shapes,geometry and architecture, and how they can represent a state of mind, then drawing lines with a scale, every now and then, on a rough piece of paper,  relaxing back into his chair and reverting back to his cigar and his thoughts.

 

“At moments of great enthusiasm it seems to me that no one in the world has ever made something this beautiful and important” — M.C. Escher

 

But then again, who knows?

 

 

A tea enthusiast with an affliction for turning thoughts to literature. Currently, a student at Ashoka with hopes of majoring in Economics.
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