What does a 20th-century Dutch graphic artist have in common with a contemporary Japanese design studio? No, this is not the set-up for a joke. The answer, which will be explored in the National Gallery of Victoria’s (NGV) summer exhibition Escher X nendo | Between Two Worlds, is a unique approach to design, and an interest in manipulating space, perspective and visual cues.
You are probably familiar with Escher’s mindboggling ‘impossible constructions’ – staircases that don’t lead anywhere, buildings that defy gravity and physics – and his metamorphosing shapes and patterns. A master of optical illusion, M.C. Escher (1898–1972) was known for his mathematically inspired prints, which explore perspective, reflection, symmetry and tessellation.
Between Two Worlds will feature more than 150 prints and drawings by Escher, loaned from the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, which houses the world’s largest collection of Escher’s work. The works will be presented within an immersive exhibition environment, especially created by acclaimed Japanese design studio, nendo.
Escher was interested in the paradox of presenting three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional plane. The pairing of Escher and studio nendo was conceptualised as a way for the NGV to present Escher’s imaginary world within a three-dimensional reality. Using the universally recognised motif of a house (which will appear in various forms) as the basis for their exhibition design, nendo have drawn from Escher’s playful work process to create their installation.
Oki Sato, chief designer and founder of nendo, says that the exhibition design is intended to allow visitors “to experience Escher’s world in a very physical way. It’s as if they are walking inside Escher’s mind, but seeing the exhibition through their own eyes.”
The exhibition will open at 8am during the final week, 1-7 April, and there will be special late night programming on 4-7 April, 6-10pm.
This article was originally published in the November/December 2018 edition of Art Guide Australia.