“The object of art is to give life shape” - Author: Jean Anouilh
Even if you don’t realise it, maths is in everything you do as an artist. Whether it’s using ratios to mix colours or working out proportions for a sculpture, maths and art go hand in hand. Creating balance (or unbalance) is the key to a good piece of art, and to do this, you have to use both logic and creativity. Balance in art is what gives us that feeling of harmony and cohesiveness. On the flip side, when something is off balance, it gives us an uneasiness that one just can't explain.
Maurits Conelis Escher is a famous artist who uses geometry to create stunning art. He is the master of balance and optical illusions. One of his most notable pieces is the “Relativity” lithograph, which looks like a never-ending staircase. If you have ever used lithography or done printwork, you will be able to appreciate the amount of meticulous detail he put into this print.
After a visit to the Alhambra Palace in Spain, he became fascinated with how patterns and tessellations work. It was the mosaics in the Alhambra that caught his eye. Soon, this would lead to an all-consuming obsession. Exploring how to show infinity in every way possible through his art. He spent hours in the palace, drawing reconstructions of the tiles and studying how they fit together. He even wrote a “dummy’s guide” to using tiled patterns called “Layman’s Theory."
Even though he was a rigid worker who had rules for his art, his work contained adventure and emotion. Giving us a glimpse into how Maurits saw the world, which was at times perplexing but nonetheless fascinating and beautiful. As seen in his lithograph, he did it after an argument with his wife. The “Bond of Union" depicts Escher and Jetta entwined without a beginning or end. The two figures are so close yet somehow manage to keep missing each other. This beautiful piece represents how bonded he felt to his wife but also his frustration at not being able to express himself.
Geometry was not one of Maurits' strongest subjects at school, and he failed most of his classes. It was mostly his hard work and intuition that make him such an enigma. Having made such an impression on the likes of Roger Penrose and Harold Coxeter, who were well-known mathematicians, he was invited to exhibit his work at the Stedelijk Museum in 1954. After further discussions with the two maths giants, they were inspired to make some of his creations a reality.
In addition to his commendations, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands even knighted Escher. Despite this, he remained humble and even a bit self conscious of his work. For the duration of Escher's life, he collaborated with many scientists and mathematicians who noted his aptitude for intuitive maths. He had little idea that he would create a whole world of unique perspectives that would lead his audience of a never ending visual journey where ceilings are floors. He is celebrated not only for his work in art but also in maths and science. As we look at all the infinite possibilities his art imagines for us, we encourage you to follow his example and never stop Scrawling.