If we look at what M.C. Escher used as topics for his tessellations, and do a quick search around the planetary neighbourhood… there is definitely an evolution and expansion that has occurred since his lifetime. Escher used to incorporate birds and fishes, reptiles, seahorses, horses, bugs and butterflies and a few human figures. Complex designs, straying a few bites away from geometric rectangles, lozenges, hexagons and triangles.
The above designs have been copied and modified extensively. It is a great way to learn the basic principles of the 17 symmetry groups. Many elementary school teachers explain the principles to their students, in math or art classes. For many students tessellations remain imprinted as a fascinating artform.
A quick search on Google images for the words “bird tessellation” is an indication that we need to go farther.
The arrival of computers and now tablets has allowed artist to explore this tessellation artform in greater detail, and much faster. The repetitive tasks are gone. Software does the tedious job of drawing each unit cell today. I did start off doing everything by hand in the late 80s, and I must say that it is the best way to learn and understand the concepts. And there is a great difference between looking at, and understanding tessellations. Today’s technology has given me a new burst of energy and the desire to explore this artform again. And I must say, the results are kilometers ahead of where I used to be with pencil and paper. And the software keeps on getting better.
Eric Broug, artist, author and master of Islamic geometric design, recently wrote (I’m paraphrasing here) that it was all fine for students to copy the masters in order to learn the art, but a real need was out there for artists to go beyond. Beyond copying and modifying what has come before. And I expand. The need to leave the master behind and explore what is inside ourselves, waiting to burst out — our own inspirations. Our own designs and drawings. From tessellations to circle limits and fractals, the domain is expanding. So is the quality of the artworks.
Now, if only the galleries would look farther than Escher when curating a tessellation exhibition!