Journey to Infinity: Escher’s World of Wonder

Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972), more commonly known as M.C. Escher, is one of the world’s most famous graphic artist. He connects spaces in an illusional way, playing around with the viewer’s perspective of the artwork.

Escher  went to School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Harleem to be trained to become an architect. However, he changed route to become a graphic artist after his linocut works done during his secondary school days were seen and highly appreciated by one of the teachers, Jessurun de Mesquita. Mesquita asked Escher, “Wouldn’t you rather be a graphic artist instead of an architect?”. And this is how Escher went on to become a graphic artist with his works well known and enjoyed by people all over the world.

Art Science Museum brought in over 150 original works of Escher and showcase his works in the exhibition named Journey to Infinity: Escher’s World of Wonder. Upon knowing this exhibition, it immediately became one of the exhibitions to visit on my priority list.

[ Waterfall, M.C. Escher, 1961, Lithograph ]

Waterfall is the first artwork by Escher that I was exposed to few years back. It was an intriguing piece of work as I tried to figure out how exactly were the different levels connected. With my eyes carefully following the route of the waters, I was confused as to which level I should be at, yet amazed as the same time that it was a loop that could go on and on.

[ Penrose stairs ]

Essentially, in this artwork is a waterfall which has its starting point and its ending point at the very same point, creating a continuous loop. Escher created this artwork based on ‘Penrose stairs’ by Lionel Penrose and Roger Penrose, a two-dimensional depiction of a staircase in which the stairs make four 90-degree turns as they ascend or descend yet form a continuous loop so that a person could climb them forever and never get any higher.

If you have watched the movie ‘Inception’, you might find the concept of ‘Penrose stairs’ rather familiar. The Penrose Stairs appeared in one of the scenes with actor Joseph Gorden Levitt and actress Ellen Page walking in an endless loop on the staircase, passing by the lady picking up scattered papers on the stairs more than once. You can watch the scene at the following link []

[ Möbius Strip II (also known as Ants) ]

Mathematical concepts have a fair bit of influence on Escher’s art styles. Escher’s Möbius  Strip II is created based on a mathematical property discovered by German mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius, such that the strip (a non-oriental two-dimensional suface with only one side) can be cut down in the middle without falling apart.

[ Möbius strip Activity ]

There is a simple activity at the exhibition for you to try out the concept of the Möbius strip. It could still be hard to comprehend the indefinite loop even after completing the activity. You can check out the following website for more in-depth explanation
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[ Regular Division of the Plane III, M.C. Escher, 1957, Woodcut ]

Tessellation: repeating a shape over and over again seamlessly
Metamorphosis: transformation from one form to another

Escher is truly amazing as to how he managed to create tessellation of complicated shapes. As seen in this artwork, it is a tessellation of horse riders and horses, a mixture of silhouettes and detailed lines. At first sight of this artwork, it is evident that a lot of effort and calculation is required to be put in before this artwork can be produced.

As according to one of the quotes by Escher included in the exhibition, he says, “It (tessellation) is the richest source of inspiration that I have ever tapped, and it has by no means dried up yet.”. Escher’s love of tessellation definitely shines through his works. Escher’s combination of tessellation and metamorphosis also opens up a whole new perspective to viewers.

[Day and Night, M.C. Escher, 1938, Woodcut]

The black and white squares at the bottom of the artwork in the center slowly morphs into two flocks of black and white birds, from only the silhouettes of birds to birds with detailed lines within to mark out the features of a bird. From the left, the flock of white birds slowly take its form from the sky during the day and flies toward the night sky. From the right are the flock of black birds slowly emerging from the dark night sky. The left half and right half of the artwork are a mirror image of each other, reflecting the distinct difference in day and night. This amazing woodcut is a perfect depiction of Escher’s fascination and passion toward tessellation and metamorphosis.

Journey to Infinity: Escher’s World of Wonder is definitely one exhibition that encourages you to slow down and look closely at the details on the artworks.  This exhibition is ending soon on 26 February so don’t miss out the chance to see the original prints of Escher’s artworks.

Hope you will enjoy the exhibition as much as we did! 😀

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