Friday 4 January 2019

Review: Escher X Nendo, Melbourne, Australia

I was hosted to this exhibition by the National Gallery of Victoria.

The perspective-bending artwork of MC Escher is so well known, that the NGV had to find a fresh way of presenting the first major exhibition of his work in Australia.

The solution was a brilliant one - invite acclaimed Japanese design company Nendo to create a physical framework for the art, itself informed by Escher's themes.

The result is a series of intriguing rooms, each different in its physical aspect as it showcases an aspect of Escher's developing art.

It's fairly tame to start with. A room displays his early work, something I wasn't at all familiar with, including an intriguingly angular self-portrait:

Past this point, an exploration of Escher's fascination with reflections leads to a room where one side reflects the other - even the text on the wall is reversed.

And on each wall, light creates Nendo's chosen house motif by shining through panels with precisely cut-out lines (see image top right) to form shapes. Here's Narrelle Harris modelling to show scale, and add some colour!

A set of stairs leads up to a mezzanine where we learn about Escher's increasing fascination with tessellations and their interlocking images. We're now striking some of his more well-known work:

The view from the mezzanine is brilliant. Suddenly the exhibition opens out into a large room with a series of black houses that progressively become white houses. Dotted nearby and within are more Escher pieces:

The next room features art held by metal struts. These form the house shape when seen at the right angle, and show off Escher's work featuring complex buildings:

One of the most striking spaces has a huge central piece composed of tiny suspended black and white houses; from the right angle one sees the image of an even larger house:

Near the end is a serpentine path which features Escher's last work, an intriguing print of intertwined snakes. It's fascinating to think how much effort went into a work like this, which nowadays could be created on a computer.

It seems a fitting tribute to a great artist that this piece is the culmination of an absorbing exhibition; ably heightened by Nendo's structures without being overwhelmed by them.

Escher X Nendo continues to 7 April 2019, at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia. Tickets $28 for adults, $24.50 concession. Make bookings here.

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