In December 2016, Grade 8 students from Dover Campus had an eye-opening opportunity to visit the Escher Exhibition at the ArtScience Museum as part of our Transformations Unit in Mathematics. The exhibition displayed a wide variety of over 150 original artworks, all of which are paintings and naturalistic drawings inspired by the ideas of M.C. Escher, a Dutch graphic artist. Among many things, we were able to understand the concept of tessellations and how they come about. The exhibition was split into six main parts of Escher’s entire creations: Early Works, Tessellation, Metamorphosis, Commercial Works, Exploring Infinity and Escher Mania, all having a specific significance on how the concept of infinitism works in the real world.
There were many exhibitions that were on display for us to touch, feel and visually interact with, which made the trip even more exciting. One of the exhibitions I particularly enjoyed was that of the mirrors. This exhibit allowed us to understand the concept behind reflection and the power of mirrors inside a small room but also gave us a chance to explore these mirrors are used for different purposes. Another exhibit I particularly enjoyed was that of the tessellations. The exhibit allowed us to work with shapes that tessellate to form a pattern for the floor. This exhibit, aimed at younger children to engage them and make them wonder how these shapes perfectly fit together, really helped me understand the applications tessellations have for us in real life. Other than these two exhibits, there were many paintings on display exploring the concepts that Escher was able to discover and utilise.
The turning point of Escher’s work was on his second trip to Spain in 1936, where by visiting architectural landmarks he was inspired to study the patterns and artisans of the 14th century. Soon, he became passionate about tessellations, a concept that is made evident on a daily basis nowadays. He produced over 100 watercolor motifs that represented 17 different ways of filling a flat surface with patterns. During the visit, we were able to fully make use of the real life scenarios that represented Escher’s findings through mirrors, sculptures and real life interactive activities.
Naturally, Escher was also famous for his commercial works even through simple projects such as making greeting cards, which he took equally seriously. Escher’s deep understanding of Mathematics played a big role in his main finding, Exploration of Infinities. His concepts explored perspective and how it changes upon closer inspection. In 1954 he started working with scientists as a major source of inspiration. This made it possible for him to construct unique optical illusions and constructions that represented infinities. Escher’s artworks are extremely varied, as we noticed in the ArtScience Museum, a mixture from pop culture to artistic fields.
Personally, this trip has made me realise that there is a lot more to Mathematics than we can see on our test papers. Applying the skills we gather can result in successful experiments such as what Escher did. It was fascinating to explore an idea that seems simple on paper but that a man spent a lifetime researching and forming conclusions about.