Escher x Nendo – Art through the lens of design

The National Gallery of Victoria engaged Japanese design house Nendo, to design an exhibition for an extensive body of work by Dutch artist MC Escher. Through the interpretive lens of design, Nendo were able to add an additional immersive layer to how people viewed, understood and experienced Escher’s unique work.

Nendo distilled the essence of Escher’s famous infinitely repeating tessellation pictures into the icon of a house. A house is a symbol of space that is universally recognised and understood. The house icon is used to convey concepts such as inside and outside, scale and perspective, three dimensional and two dimensional as well as evoke emotions and feelings in the viewer. This simple symbol provided a means for Nendo to create new experiences and opportunities for people to engage with and understand both Escher and his work.

The house icon was deployed in a variety of ways to both convey and challenge the viewer’s sense of perspective, scale and reality in a manner similar to many of Escher’s art works. From curtains of tiny houses that reveal a larger house within to human scaled avenues of folding houses, the house icon is used as a metaphor to take the viewer on a journey through both Escher’s artistic career and his internal state of mind.

Throughout the exhibition the viewing spaces changed in size and shape, from intimate closed spaces to sinuous winding paths to massive open viewing areas. At each point in the journey the viewer is invited to experience first hand through the symbol of the house, the various graphical and mathematical techniques employed by Escher. This approach brought new clarity and lovely ‘Ah ha!’ moments as the viewer is able to immerse themselves in Escher’s world and experience a deeper understanding of the art works.

This exhibition beautifully demonstrates how artists and the works they create, can be newly interpreted, experienced and appreciated, when viewed through the lens of design.

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