Escher's Magical World

MC Escher, Relativity, 1953, lithograph, 29,1 x 29,4 cm. The MC Escher Company BV Baarn, The Netherlands


Comments on the exhibition at CCBB by the Dutch graphic artist

The paradox of a delimited space, restricted or confined and, at the same time, multiplied, the infinite not as the formally unlimited, but as a continuous addition of discrete figures or elements, is the paradox of space in Escher, which takes us to the singular experience of vertigo together with… claustrophobia.

photo: Marcelo Guimaraes Lima

Escher's Magical World was an exhibition presented at the Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil, in the central region of the city of São Paulo (in 2011). Here we briefly point out some characteristics of Escher's art and observe a certain resonance between the poetics of the Dutch artist and the architectural and urban space in São Paulo.

We know that geometric form is always the result of systematized operations, of transformations of figures. Thus, the image in Escher, in its transformative geometry, leads us to the paradox of equivalences and multiplicity, the unity of the diverse and the diversity of the identical, of reversals, circularities and space-time continuities where common experience only glimpses the discrete, the meaning or the unique trajectory and the discontinuous or isolated, and vice versa.

The graphic arts are the arts of surfaces or planes. Particularly in some of Escher's lithographs, they acquire a density and presence analogous to those of painting. The graphic arts (engraving, lithography, etching, aquatint, woodcut and complementary techniques or disciplines) are arts of superimposed planes that transfigure surfaces and lights into transparencies resulting from the dialogue between shadows and light in complementary tensions and varied balances.

Day and Night, 1938, woodcut, 39,2 x 67,8 cm. The MC Escher Company BV Baarn, The Netherlands

Seen in the twilight of the exhibition hall of the Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil in São Paulo, these grays and blacks acquired a kind of almost “musical” vibration. The issue of visual rhythms is undoubtedly central to Escher, and is related to the central issues of image and representation.

For the peculiar and “outdated” artist who was the Dutch engraver of his time, the question of the work of art was distinguished from “purely” or focused aesthetic questions to focus on the structural and structuring investigation of the image and representation as access doors, through tensions and contrasts, to being and reality.

The creator Escher needed the tenacity and, in a way, the isolation and constant reiteration of a particular and marked search, with all its possible mishaps, for the production, in its best moments, of an original poetic vision, that is: an aesthetic of its own, capable of transfiguring representative processes and formalizing questions into unique works of art that carry a unique emotion, through which the method and measure can reveal themselves as foundations of our sensitive and sentient relationship to reality and ourselves.

São Paulo, the city – labyrinth, is the ideal background for Escher's labyrinth vision. The spatial and architectural context of the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center building in downtown São Paulo, renovated in 1927, in “eclectic” forms (ambiguous, amalgamated, heterogeneous) between Neoclassical and Art Nouveau, reaffirmed, in appearance, in the configuration of space, rhythms and visual structures, proportions and paths, this affinity found between the artist and the city, in a kind of unusual, discreet but effective dialogue between the work of art and the architecture.

Castrovalva, 1930, lithograph, 53,6 x 41,8 cm. The MC Escher Company BV Baarn, The Netherlands

The logic of imagination in Escher is presented and developed as a discipline of the gaze, as a kind of pedagogy of vision through which we learn to intuit other dimensions, other contrasts, other paths of reality and subjectivity in surfaces and spaces that are familiar to us.

Building of the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center, in the central region of São Paulo (2011). Photo: Marcelo Guimarães Lima

*Marcelo Guimaraes Lima is an artist, researcher, writer and teacher.

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