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Super Escher

9:52 pm PHT

I have the lucky timing of being in Tokyo during the time a selection of M. C. Escher’s works were being displayed at an exhibit in Shibuya. The Dutch M. C. Escher has been one of my favorite artists, ever since I saw his work, Relativity, in a Childcraft volume from World Book Encyclopedia. If Relativity seems familiar, it’s because the concept has been used many times, the most notable reference for me being the climax scene in the movie, Labyrinth. In fact, Relativity can be seen hanging on the wall of the bedroom of Sarah, the movie’s lead character.

(Though I also love the movie and can easily create a longish entry about it, let’s get back to Escher.  =))

Escher, I’m surprised to find out, lived most of his life in the last century and passed away only eight years before I was born. He’s well known for making detailed pictures of impossible objects or optical illusions (like Belvedere), and for constructing really amazing tessellations (jigsaw puzzle images) which he called regular divisions of the plane (e.g., Reptiles). His usual media for making art are lithography and woodcut. Escher often signed his artwork using the MCE monogram depicted above.

The exhibit, entitled Super Escher, opened at the museum hall of Bunkamura (literally “culture village”) last November 11 and will run through until the 13th of January next year. It features a large selection of Escher’s works from the Escher Museum in the Netherlands. If you’re in Tokyo, I highly encourage you to go see it. The admission only costs ¥1,300 and it’s totally worth three hours of your time. When I went to the exhibit last Saturday, I was surprised to find out that the whole place was filled with people. Apparently, either the Japanese are huge fans of Escher or they’re just curious, since the exhibit was advertised well.

While I’m familiar with a lot of his artwork, I learned quite a lot from the exhibit. Before he got into abstract and fanciful depictions, I found out that he created a lot of beautiful landscape art, especially in the 1920s and 1930s when he traveled around southern Europe. His Nocturnal Rome series is particularly beautiful.

The exhibit also showed a lot of his “study” drawings where he sketched mock-ups of his creations before committing them to lithograph or woodcut. I was intrigued to see that he used grids in creating his tessellations. He also did sculptures! And an interesting study drawing he did that I saw was the undistorted version of Balcony.

The artwork that I stared at was worth it in itself but the icing on the cake was the multimedia and interactive part of the exhibit. Here, several of Escher’s works became animated and there was even a musical presentation on his work at depicting Johann Sebastian Bach’s music as a form of visual art. Some of the wood blocks and tools he used were also on exhibit, as well as a video clip of him creating his last artwork, Snakes, in 1969. And, get this, people who understand Japanese can borrow the free Nintendo DS exhibit guide! How cool is that? You get to enjoy the exhibit with your own personal tour guide! Since I don’t grok Nihonggo, I had to make do with a hard copy English guide. Sniff, sniff…

But it’s still totally fun! I went in as an admirer of his works, and I left as a lifelong fan. I even impulsively bought there a book showing his art.  =) I wish I could’ve taken pictures of the exhibit to show you, but cameras were expectedly not allowed.

Oh, here’s some desert: Escher’s art depicted in LEGO (scroll down to the bottom)!

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