Imagined worlds draw viewer in

Glenbow showcases the arc of M.C. Escher’s career

Escher reproductions are a staple of every poster exhibition and it’s no wonder: the artist’s well-tempered depictions of impossible worlds mind-bending perspectives and mathematically precise images are engrossing on both an artistic and intellectual level.

“It really draws you in because your mind struggles to understand first of all the picture that he’s created but then also it takes you in further so that you start to wonder how did he actually make this — how did he do this?” says Melanie Kjorlien vice-president of access collections and exhibitions at Glenbow Museum. “And those answers aren’t easy to come by.”

Glenbow is showcasing over 50 Escher works from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada until mid-August and no matter how many Escher posters or art books you may own you won’t want to miss seeing these original prints in person. “You get a better… appreciation of the image in terms of what the artist’s intent was and then also the kinds of detail that went into the creation of that work” says Kjorlien.

The chance to examine the fine details of Escher’s artistry is certainly a treat but it’s some of the macro-elements like the original scale of the images or the off-white timbre of the paper that round off the live experience of this art. One particularly interesting piece is the original woodblock for “Church at Corte Corsica” (the exhibition also includes the preliminary sketch beside the final print) where viewers can glimpse the technique behind the art.

You might not immediately recognize “Church at Corte Corsica”; it’s a print from 1933 during Escher’s Italian period. That’s one of the strengths of the show according to Kjorlien: “The work in this exhibition spans the breadth of Escher’s career” she says. She particularly notes the print that opens the show “Eight Heads” created in 1922 when Escher was still a student with its mosaic-like depiction of eight figures that foreshadows his later work. Similarly his Italian work was inspired greatly by the local landscape and architecture and even without illusions and impossibilities you can still see a style that remained with Escher throughout his career.

Escher left Italy in the mid-1930s due to the rise of fascism and moved to Switzerland. Uninspired by Swiss geography Escher turned to his imagination to create works of art. “That’s where you see the rest of the exhibition and the rest of his career where you get these really fantastic imagined images and experimentations with different mathematical theories in an art image” says Kjorlien. The collection has numerous ultra-famous prints such as the funhouse of gravity and stairs in “Relativity” the interlocking fish and birds of “Sky and Water I” and lines of monks stuck on an endless staircase in “Ascending and Descending.”

Escher fans won’t forgive themselves if they miss this one; and for anyone who doesn’t know much about the Dutch printmaker’s works good news: there are impossible worlds waiting for you to explore.