Thanks for landing here, I continue about art and as you can see from the title this will be a short journey from the sublime to the ridiculous.

M C Escher was born in the Netherlands in 1898, he enjoyed drawing as a child and also had done block printing before he left high school. He then spent 10 years at the School of Architecture & Ornamental Design in Haarlem (Not New York J).

His penmanship was very important to him early on in his career: “Excellence of craftsmanship takes up all his time…” though he later decries mere skill as a “state of self-delusion.” From there his ‘Art’ becomes his means to expression, “Ideas came into my mind quite unrelated to graphic art, notions that fascinated me that I longed to communicate… mental images of a kind that can only be made comprehensible to others by presenting them as visual images.”

Such need to explore and explain (kinda) the world view is exemplified in one of Escher’s most famous and homaged work ‘Relativity’. With 3 different gravitational tugs acting on the figures they may exist in the same graphical space but they cannot exist in the same world. (Link)

On the top (?) staircase there are 2 figures with feet on the same step but one is walking down the stairs and the other is walking up! “Contact between them is out of the question because they live in different worlds and therefore can have no knowledge of each other’s existence.”

With the artist at the centre, (a requirement to get eyeline I guess) Esher says of this image “The ego is the unshakable core of his world.”

A couple of years ago I was in Milan and was able to go to an Escher exhibition, the quality of his work is fantastic but so was the way that the curator had involved the viewer in the works. You could stand at certain points and perceive a cot in perfect 3d ness like a cot should be, but a step away and you see that it is an impossible jumble of plank and beam that makes very little visual sense from anywhere else.

Here is my son at the Escher exhibition checking out the reflection in a silvered orb to get the right view of the work behind him.

How do you experience art? I find myself standing about a metre away from a work and leaning slightly back trying to look slightly reflective and thoughtful. It’s a cliché I know but a disparaging frown can be quite often be seen on my face too.

My own forays into art in my interactive media degree were all about getting people to (obvs) interact with the work. My final show piece was the ‘Chaos Engine’ (Link) which was a pendulum swinging free with a north facing magnet on the end and 3 north facing magnets in the base. So when you let the pendulum swing it is forced into new chaotic paths because of the repellent magnetic fields. The movement of the pendulum was tracked into a computer and the path it described was the work, filling up on a screen, there was a big red button that when you pushed it sent the image with its time and date of creation to a printer and the person who started the swing could take their image away.

The ability to create and walk away with a piece of (near-automatic) art was an unusual experience of art for many that played along, but folks seemed to really enjoy it, some even said they cherished it and I got a first in my degree, which was nice.

Generally I love interactive art, I like to think that the artist cares enough about the viewer that there is a way that can be involved. In MOMA there is a brown paper bag and a few tennis balls and a page of instructions of what to do so I became the statue with a bag on my head so my partner could take a picture… she of course backed out of the room and left me alone, when I took the bag off my head there were 2 very confused Japanese tourists looking at me quizzically and Jo laughing at me from behind a corner.

Which brings us finally to Tracey Emin, when you do an internet search for her she is described as a ‘confessional’ artist which seems to be fair but why do we have to be interested in the autobiography of the artist if the art itself is bad.

The unmade bed is just dull, the tent of all that she had slept with to 1995 is unfair on those named within it and it’s just dull and in a marked contrast to the skill (craft/artistry) of Escher the quality of her line is dull. As part of her being one of the shockers in the Young British Artists (YBA) she was a personality cult from the first, TV appearances while being more than a little pissed up ‘bedded’ in her rebel status and was just dull.

Not to say her lack of decent drawing skill in any way denies her the moniker of artist but in 100 years what value or weight will any of her work still hold. Without the knowledge of who she is and how ‘shocking’ it was in the 90’s will anyone care when the personality cult has passed?

Click on the following letters to visit the previous blogs in this A-Z of art: A

Please comment below, tell me why Emin’s art is good or maybe just not dull or anything else that occurs to you.

4 thoughts on “E is for Escher, Experience & Emin”

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Deb, I remain unconvinced about Emin, even the birds in the video look a little dull. 🙂

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