Friday, January 31, 2014

The Mathematically Artsy M.C. Escher

 A few days ago during my first class with Frans van Galen, one of my professor in Utrecth University, he mentioned something about ‘Escher patterns.’ He showed us some of it. 


It was fascinating since 1) we have never heard of him before, and 2) the occurrence of Mathematics in Art (or Art in Mathematics, whichever way you like) has always been an intriguing topic for me. Maurits Cornelis Escher, widely known as M.C. Escher, is a Dutch artist during the modern/industrial era. He is famous for creating unique works of art that explore and exhibit a wide range of mathematical ideas. He is not as renowned as Van Gogh or Dali, which is a shame since in my opinion his works are quite remarkable. Some of them are even widely circulated around the internet, sadly without any reference to his name. 

Drawing Hands (1948)
I think I've seen this one around 9gag or somewhere

Just like many notable figures in art and science history, Escher was one of those gifted children born in a privileged family, planned to be something only to turn out to be others.  Escher’s dad wanted him to be an architect, but poor grades and his interest in drawing led him to a career in graphic arts instead. He gained a lot of admirer among mathematics society for his interesting visualization of mathematics principle, yet amazingly, he never had any formal mathematics training beyond secondary education. Like his famous predecessor, Michelangelo and da Vinci, Escher was left-handed.

Escher traveled a lot during his youngers years and some of the place he saw inspired him a lot. One of them is Alhambra, a 14th century castle in Granada, whose intricate design displays a lot of interlocking and repetitive geometric patterns.

Alhambra Castle, Granada, Spain

His works transcended the plane and projective geometry into the essence of non-Euclidean geometry, and his ability to present three-dimensional ideas in two dimensional medium was remarkable at that age. Although, to be noted, his medium is not always two dimensional. He also made lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings. He was deeply interested in the idea of paradox and ‘impossible’ figures, the combinations of shapes that violate logics of spatial relation; theme that was also explored by Picasso and Dali, and probably what Escher known for the most. Mathematically speaking, Escher works can be said to range around two broad areas: the geometry of space and what we may call the logic of space.

Stupidly speaking, his works are simply weird, creepy and completely out of the box. 

The ones I showed above reveal one of Escher’s interests: tessellation. It is division of planes, either regularly or irregularly, by an arrangement of shapes that completely cover the area and leave no gaps. Some of the other topics occurring a lot in his works were polyhedral, impossible construction and illusion of space. 

Stars (1948)

Spirals (1953)

Relativity (1953)

Waterfall (1961)
I've also seen this one on the internet

I can't find the title of this one, but this is interesting

M. C. Escher passed away in 1972. Nowadays the collection of his original works can be found at the Escher Museum, a subsidiary of the Haags Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag; the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC); the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa); the Israel Museum (Jerusalem); Huis ten Bosch (Nagasaki, Japan); and the Boston Public Library.

If you are for one or some reason will never have the chance to visit those places, this is M.C. Escher's online gallery, in his official website (Yes, deceased 19th century artist can have one of those too). But no, it is not Deviantart.

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