Monday, 10 August 2015


As a design student when I first discovered the works of MC Escher a few years ago, I was utterly fascinated. This fascination fuelled the need to delve deeper and understand the man and his art. Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is one of the world's most famous graphic artists. He is famous for his so-called impossible constructions, such as Ascending and DescendingRelativity, his Transformation Prints, such as Metamorphosis IMetamorphosis II and Metamorphosis IIISky & Water I or Reptiles. But he also made some wonderful, more realistic work during the time he lived and traveled in Italy.


The word 'tessera' in latin means a small stone cube. They were used to make up 'tessellata' - the mosaic pictures forming floors and tilings in Roman buildings. It originally means a big picture made from small square tiles, but it also means tile-sized uniformly shaped pictures or big pictures made from tiles that aren't just square-shaped.

Tessellation can also mean simply filling a large surface, without gaps or overlaps, using non-square tiles. In nature, we see this kind of tessellation in cracked mud and turtle shells among other things. In man-made areas, we see it in architecture, for example - from brick walls and bathroom floors to decorated magnificent, beautiful buildings like the Alhambra in Spain.

Escher is regarded as the 'Father' of modern tessellation. During his life, he became obsessed with filling surfaces with pictures that did not overlap or leave spaces. He once stated- "Filling two-dimensional planes has become a real mania to which I have become addicted and from which I sometimes find it hard to tear myself away."

Growing up if anybody had said it was possible to apply mathematics in art, i would have thought they were bonkers. Since I have been a student of mathematics as well as a student of design,what made Escher's work intriguingly beautiful for me was the marriage of the two.

Although Escher did not have any formal  training in mathematics his work had a strong mathematical component. His understanding of mathematics was largely visual and intuitive. 

The mathematical influence in his work emerged around 1936, when he journeyed to the Mediterranean with the Adria Shipping Company. He became interested in order and symmetry. Escher described his journey through the Mediterranean as "the richest source of inspiration I have ever tapped."

Escher's work will give you a whole new perspective on travel, architecture,art and design. As for my lil bug and me, we could never tire of reiterating the importance and influence of travel in forming design ideologies and aesthetic sensibilities.