# Escher on Escher

Recently (read some years back) I read Escher on Escher – Exploring the Infinite. This book gives an insight on how Escher viewed himself and his work. How were his social relations with his family, friends and admirers. Fame and appreciation of his work by a wide circle of people came late to Escher, when he was past his 50s. Escher was a perfectionist, he had almost perfected his craft of making woodcuts, taking it to its limits
as far as his hands and eyes could take. But that was the mere mechanical part of his work, the real part was the idea of the graphic print. The ideas it seems struggled a lot in his mind, making the print itself was the easier part. The ideas came to him, but later he strived for something entirely new, and succeeded.

On of the part of the book “Lectures That Were Never Given” has notes from the talks that Escher was supposed to give in the US of Amerika, but could not because of health reasons. Other include translations of his articles that appear in many of the art magazines and journals. These articles tell us how Escher looked at the work he was doing, and his feelings about other artists works. But he was the most critical about his own work.

This is what he had to say about the ancient cave-painters:

# 12
But his will and his capacity to produce pictorial images were at the least just as strong as ours. Perhaps even stronger because he was in direct contact with nature, which we usually approach by the way of a cultural and educational system that, if not barring the was, certainly obstructs it for us.
# 13
Illustrations are consequently for the graphic artists (mostly) an indispensable link in the chain of activities, but never his goal. That is probably the reason why a graphic artists cannot suppress a feeling of dissatisfaction when presented with an illustration as end result. You see, I don’t give reasons, only statements.
# 15
The above-mentioned elements of repetition and multiplication is /not/ in conflict with this. On the contrary, order is repetition of units; chaos is multiplicity without rhythm.

Escher also talks about the influence Bach’s music had on his work. He says after hearing Bach’s Goldberg variation in a concert (this is from the acceptance address for an award which he gave to city of Hilversum):

# 20
That was to Bach to whom I have pledged my heart and my intellect at the same time. Such beauty, of composition as well as of execution, cannot be possibly expressed in words.

Maybe same is also true of Escher’s own work. And the inspiration that he got from Bach was at a deep level, maybe if Bach was a contemporary, Escher wouldn’t have felt that lonely in his life. He says:

# 20
Bach’s music may perhaps provide the occasion to say a few words about my work. I had better not expound on the affinity I seem to have discovered between the canon in polyphonic music and the regular division of a plane into figures with identical forms, no matter how striking it is to me that the Baroque composers have performed manipulations with sounds similar to the ones I love to do with visual images.

Allow me to say only that Father Bach has been a strong inspiration to me, and that many a print reached definite form in my mind while I was listening to lucid, logical language he speaks, while I was drinking the clear wine he pours.

And this is what he has to say about his own work:

# 21
I can’t keep fooling around with our irrefutable uncertainties. It is, for example. a pleasure knowingly to mix up two- and three-dimensionalities, flat and spatial, and to make fun of gravity. Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling? Are you definitely convinced that you will be on a higher plane when you walk up a staircase? Is it a fact as far as you are concerned that half an egg isn’t also half an empty shell?
Such apparently silly questions I pose first to myself (because I am my own first observer), and then to others who are kind enough to come and observe my work. It is satisfying to note that quite a few people enjoy this kind of playfulness, and that they aren’t afraid to modify their thinking about rock-solid realities.

And about art itself and the feelings that it manifests in us he says:

# 21
To tell you the truth, I find the concept of “art” a bit of dilemma. What one person calls “art” is often not “art” for another. “Beautiful” and “ugly” are old-fashioned concepts that are only rarely brought into the picture nowadays – maybe rightfully so, who is to say? Something repellant, something that gives you a moral hangover, something that hurts your eyes and ear can still be art!

And he says about himself:

# 21
So I am a graphic artist with heart and soul, but the rating “artist” makes me a feel a little embarrassed.

Next in the book are the “Lectures That Were Never Given”. These are the notes accompanying the slides, the text tells us about the technique and thought and thinking about the work. Escher has interesting way of putting thoughts about his work and the creatures it contains. He suggests to us that the creatures have ideas and behavior of their own.

# 30
On Horsemen and Symmetry Work 67 (glide reflection) The left horsemen, as a creature, was exceptionally obliging and willing. It happens rarely that my subjects so meekly allow themselves to be portrayed in detail.

# 31
While drawing, I feel as if I were a spiritualistic medium, controlled by creatures that I am conjuring up, and it is as if they themselves decide on the shape in which they like to appear.

And the regular division of the plane is a theme which he calls “unusual mania” and its origins.

# 30
I often have wondered at this, for an artist, unusual mania of mine to design periodic drawings. Over the years I made about a hundred fifty of them. In the beginning, that was some forty years ago, I puzzled quite instinctively, apparently without any well-defined purpose. I was simply driven by the irresistible pleasure I felt in repeating the same figures on a piece of paper. I had not yet seen the tile decorations in Al-hambara and never heard of crystallography; so I did not even know that my game was based on rules that have been
scientifically investigated.

And on interpretations of his work, in which people find what they want, religious, spiritualistic and philosophical messages he says this:

# 47 (Reptiles)
I never had any moralizing or symbolizing intention with this print, but some years later one of learned customers told me that it is a striking illustration of the doctrine of reincarnation. So it appears that one can even be symbolizing without knowing it.

And on the self-portraits that he has something to say to us regarding ourselves, ( involving a bit of narcissism, I think) :

# 60 (Hand with Reflecting Sphere, Three Spheres II)
Your own head, or more exactly the point between your eyes, is the center. No matter how you turn or twist yourself, you can’t get out of that central point. You are immovably the focus of your world.

# 61 (Eye)
I choose the features of Good Man Bones, with whom we are all confronted whether we like it or not.

And on Print Gallery, (one of my personal favourites) he says:

# 67 (Print Gallery)
Thus having let our eyes rove in a circular tour around the blank center, we come to the logical conclusion that the young man himself also must be part of print he is looking at. He actually sees himself as a detail of the picture; reality and image are one and the same.

This is something that I can relate to. The life we observe is ultimately the print and we are actually observing ourselves in life as in young man in the Print Gallery. And on perspectives and absurdities of logical opposites he says:

# 73 (Another World)
It may seem absurd to unite nadir, horizon and zenith in one construction, and yet if forms a logical whole.

In form and function the idea of logical opposites forms, much of the basis for Escher’s work. Visit to Al-hambara had a special significance for Escher. Here he found that the Moorish artists had explored the regular division of
the plane, but he lamented that they restricted themselves to abstract geometric forms and not to the anything that is present in nature which he himself felt an urge for.

# 83
After that first Spanish trip in 1922, I became more and more intrigued by the fitting together of congruent figures according to the above-mentioned definition and by the effort to shape this figures in such a way that they would evoke in the observer an association with an object or a living form of nature. (emphasis in original)

# 88
With regard to my present work, this proves to what extent I feel liberated from the graphic arts simply for the sake of graphic arts.

About the graphic artist with which he identified:

# 90
The graphic artist, however, is like a blackbird that sings in the treetop. Again and again he repeats the song, complete in every copy he makes. The more copies people ask him to make, the better he likes it. He hopes the wind will spread his leaves over the Earth, the farther the better – not like the dry leaves in autumn but like feather-light seeds capable of germinating.

And I think Escher has attained this goal which he describes above very well. His works have germinated into new ideas to a new era of graphic artists and others. And on the old techniques of graphic art:

# 90
Consequently, the emphasis falls unjustifiably on process, and one hardly takes into account the actual goal of all that drudgery. No matter how much joy the exercise of a noble craft can bestow, let us not forget that it is a means of repeating and multiplying. Repetition and multiplication – two simple words. The entire world perceivable with the senses will fall apart into meaningless chaos if we could not cling to these two concepts.

On him being called an “expert.”

# 92
A feeling of helplessness comes over me now that I am faced with describing what is meant by this designation. To my unending amazement, however, this is apparently so unusual and in a sense so new that I am unable to identify any “expert” in addition to myself who is sufficiently comfortable with it to give a written explanation.

# 93
By doing this they have opened the gate that gives access to a vast domain, but they themselves have not entered. Their nature is such that they are more interested in the way the gate is opened than in the garden that lies behind it. Sometimes I think I have covered the entire domain and trod all the paths and admired all the views. Then all of a sudden I find another new way, and I taste a new delight.

On his explorations of the plane and its drawings

Because what fascinates me, and what I experience as beauty, is apparently considered dull and dry by others. A plane which one must imagine as extending without boundaries in all directions, can be filled or divided into infinity, according to a limited number of systems, with similar geometric figures that are contiguous on all sides without leaving “empty spaces.”

We don’t to master everything required to construct something in order to appreaciate it.

# 94
Just as I do not consider it necessary to know all the tricks of the graphic trade in order to appreciate prints, neither do I believe that one must master in detail the theoretical fundaments of division of planes in order to learn to value this and to accept that it can exert an inspiring influence, as I have experienced.

On the unending nature of many of creations.

# 95
I see it as a means of representing timelessness, the dimensionlessness, that existed before life commenced and that will return when life again ceases.

On the dynamic nature of his drawings and comparison to film and reading of a book.

# 98
The series of static representations achieved a dynamic character due to the time span that was needed to follow the whole story. In contrast to this cinematographically projected images of a film which appear one in the after the other on an immovable place, onto which viewer’s eye remains directed without moving. In the case of both the medieval story in images and the developing pattern of a regular filling of a plane, the images are located next to each other, and timing becomes a factor in the movements made by viewer’s eye as it follows the story from image to image. In this way, holding a strip of film in hand, one observes it image by image, reading a book is also done more or less in the same manner.

# 99
Is it possible to make a representation of recognizable figures that has no background? To see only a “figure” is not conceivable because something that manifests itself as a figure, that is, as “thing to be seen,” is limited, whether it is real or not. A limitation also means a separation with regard to something else. That “something else” is the background from which the figure (or object sensation) frees itself.

# 100

Imagination and inventiveness, not to mention tenacity, are indispensable for this work. They come to us from “somewhere out there” but we can facilitate their path to us and encourage and
cultivate them in various ways. Among others I found one in writings of Leonardo da Vinchi. This is
the fragment, translated as best I can:

“When you have to represent an image, observe some walls that are besmeared with stains or composed of stones of varying substances. You can discover in them resemblances to a variety of mountainous landscapes, rivers, rocks, trees, vast plains and hills. You can also seen in them battles and human figures, strange facial features and items of clothing, and an infinite number of other things whose forms you can straighten out and improve. It is the same with crumbling walls as it is with the sound of church bells, in which you can discover every name and every word you want.”

Despite all this conscious and personal effort the illustrator still gets the feeling that some kind of magic action is taking place as he moves his lead pencil over the paper. It seems as if it isn’t he who determines the shapes but rather that the simple, flat stain is guiding or impeding the movements of the hand that draws, as if the illustrator were a spiritualistic medium. In fact, he is amazed, not to say taken aback, at what he sees appearing under his hand, and he experiences with regard to his creations a humble feeling of gratitude or of resignation depending on whether they behave willingly or reluctantly.

# Review of Laal Kaptaan

Recently I saw the movie Laal Kaptaan (लाल कप्तान, literal translation Red Captain). Though I had seen the trailer when it was released sometime back this year, I did not see the movie. The visuals in the trailer were quite good, so I decided to finally watch it. And I was not disappointed. This is one of the few movies in recent times that I have managed to see in one shot. Or rather the movie managed to make me do it.

The major part of the movie is set in the region of Bundelkhand (literally the dominion of the Bundelas). This region which falls South-East of Agra and Delhi has historical places like Jhansi, Gwalior, Panna, Chhatarpur, Banda and Orchha within its folds has been historically important. The province of Awadh (Oudh) lies to the east of Bundelkhand and Ganges marks the boundary to the East, while the Rajputana lies to the West. The Yamuna divides the region into two, with the majority of the part lying to the West of Yamuna. The region between the two mighty rivers is known as a doab (marked yellow in the map below). Many of these were erstwhile princely states, which also existed until 1947, when they were merged with the Indian republic.

The era when the Mughal empire was disintegrating post the death of Aurangazeb in 1707, was especially tumultuous for this region. With the power vacuum created by the decaying Mughal empire being filled by the Marathas, by this time the Chatrapati was only a titular head and real power rested with the Peshwas and the various great houses of the Marathas (Shinde, Holkar, Bhosle, Gaikwad). The Marathas laid waste to large tracts and levied chauth ( collection of one-fourth of income ) on these regions mercilessly. But in general, they were hated in this region for their bullishness and general havoc they perpetrated on the public and places. For example, they looted the Red Fort in Delhi with impunity, scrapping off precious and semi-precious stones from the Diwan-e-Khaas to do a vasuli. (I might make a dedicated post for this later.)
If the Battle of Plassey (1757) was the founding stone of the British in India, then the battle of Buxar (1764) was the first real fortification of this foundation, and the British really established themselves in India as a potent force. Though the Marathas were the most powerful, the British did not engage with them directly until the end of the century. The third Battle of Panipat (1761), a few years before the battle of Buxar limited the Maratha presence in the North severely and was one of the major reasons that led to its full demise as a political and military power by the start of the next century. Though, this enabled the houses of Shinde, Holkar, Bhosle and Gaikwad to establish their own semi-independence over the Peshwas. Eventually, everyone became under the British. But the time in which the movie is set, the Marathas were still a force to reckon with and the EIC has just established itself as a millitary and political power in much of the region from Bengal to North India along the Gangetic plains.
The movie starts just after the Battle of Buxar (1764) when a large number of people are hanged outside the fortress of Shergarh (most probably a fictional place, as I could not find it anywhere in the sources). after the British win the battle. One of the persons who sides with the British named Rehmat Khan is especially despised upon, with him being called a gaddar (traitor) by the hanged. The accused are hanged on a huge banyan tree, with their bodies hanging like overgrown fruits along its branches. It is raining and in this scene, a young teenage boy promises Rehmat Khan that one day he will also hang on the same tree.
Fast forward 25 years (1789), we are taken to the den of a dacoit (डकैत /डाकू ) where the Bairagi called by another generic name Gossain (this term I had not heard before this film). He comes in and asks for fire for his chillam. Mayhem ensues and the hunter takes his prey. The entire scene starts with dark of the night and ends in the early morning.
The horde of warrior ascetics (of which were the Gossain/Naga) came to prominence in the resulting political instability and shifting sands post the fall of the Mughal empire.

…these orders became politically significant only after the collapse of the Mughal Empire, and more particularly after British activities created political and economic chaos in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Going forward, the hunter goes on to take his reward, where the local chieftain mocks him and doesn’t want to pay. He is made to pay by the Gossain. The film then follows the Gossain on his quest to locate and kill Rehmat Khan. Though there are hints that there is a link between the Gossain and the teenage boy who is hanged in the beginning, we are not sure how they are connected. I won’t go into the plot of the film, but will instead focus on some of the characters and background of the film.
Though some of the other reviews have portrayed the character of Rehmat Khan (played by Manav Vij) as just grunting. But I think he played the role very well, perhaps these reviewers are used to seeing villains as people who yell and show a lot of emosions on their faces. He subtly played the act of a cold-blooded, calculating and cruel character quite well and was never out of character. Rehmat Khan is a Rohilla. Now, the Rohillas were of an Afghan ethnicity, and they sided against the Marathas (led by Najib ad-Dawlah) with Ahemdshah Abdali during the third battle of Panipat. The Marathas were very enraged by this and Mahadji Shinde did collect his revenge on them a few years in 1772 after Panipat by destroying Rohilkhand and scattering bones of Najib ad-Dawlah. After this defeat, the First Rohilla war happened in which the British siding with the Nawab of Oudh defeated the Rohillas and the state of Rampur of established. The second Rohilla war, in 1794, between British and the Rohillas ended their supremacy in the region. Now, the time between the two wars, there was lot of guerilla activity carried out by the Rohillas, which led them to be set as Nawabs of Rampur. Given all this chaos and uncertainty,  there were no permanent alliances or allegiances. The main part of Laal Kaptaan (c. 1789) is set in this era for the Rohillas. So, Rehmat Khan, a prominent Rohilla, defecting over to British was noteworthy, but not out of the line.
Pindaris

Pindaris were not a tribe, but a military system of bandits of all races and religions. They fluctuated in numbers, being augumented from time to timeby military adventurer from every State, and frequently amounted to as many as 30,000 men.

Pindaris present an episode in history of India, which is quite extraordinary, though skimmed upon in the history texts. Here we are witnessing a rise of a band of people whose existence was based on terrorising and looting people in distant provinces.  The Pindaris were roughly active in the last three decades of eighteenth century to the first two decades of nineteenth. Earlier they were under tutelage of Maratha cheiftains who used them as militias to wreck havoc on supply lines of the enemies and disrupt civilian peace. So them accompanying the Maratha camp is completely normal. The depiction of the Pindari lust for the loot (tum log lo khazana, mai chala lene zanana) is well done in the film. In fact, the comedy of errors that the bunch sent to hunt down Rehmat Khan is something to relish. The frustration of the little Maratha knight in being unable to  control them is well worth seeing.
But as the Maratha power came to a decline, the Pindaris in the nineteenth century became a force of their own, without masters. They would raid far, and were viscious and cruel in their tactics to make people pay. There are reports that people even committed suicides when they came to know that a Pindari raid was imminent.
Another thing worth mentioning in the film is the settings in which the film is shot. The cinematography is par excellence, set amongst fantastic fort ruins. I cannot identify the actual locations used in the film, so any information on that would be welcome.

The other character in the film worth mentioning is the Dog Walker played by Deepak Dobriyal. He has a pair of very fine Mudhol hounds (also known as Caravan hounds) named Sukhiram and Dukhiram.
The character has no name in the film, but he finds people who are wanted for a price. That is how he makes his living. He refuses a horse mount saying it interferes with  His character has many layers and he shares a special relationship with the Gossain, they respect each other. It was a treat to watch Dobriyal play this character with English hat and his greeting of:

Howde do…

The two female characters in the film, one played by Zoya and other by Heena are in their niche. Zoya as a courtesan who is neglected, while Heena playing the wife of a chieftain carries herself well. Their characters are in emotional turmoil with maternal love and the surrounding situation.

The clothing, the artefacts are all era-appropriate and so are the languages used. A lot of work must have gone in background research and it shows in the quality of the film. Kudos to the production team for that. Just that the look of Saif has a semblance to Depp’s Jack Sparrow, that could have been avoided.
Overall a very watchable film, if you have not, do watch it.

PS: A special ode to Saif Ali Khan.
In my personal opinion, Saif Ali Khan has really matured as an actor over the years and has earned my respect for it. You can’t really compare his role in Yeh Dillagi and lets say his depiction of Langda Tyagi in Omkara. It is as if you are watching two completely different actors. The variety of roles he has done in recent times, and with grace is just amazing. He has done roles which many of the mainstream actors would shy away from. Hope that we see his good form in the future also.

References

Lorenzen, D. (1978). Warrior Ascetics in Indian History. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 98(1), 61-75.

# Latex Tufte class in org-mode

Edward Tufte is known for graphical excellence in his famous books. Some enthusiasts combined his design principles into LaTeX and you have the tufte-book and tufte-handout classes for excellence in typesetting. This has support for sidenotes, margin figures, full width figures etc.
Now, since I have shifted to org-mode on Emacs for most of my writing work including that of LaTeX, it was but natural to take this in org-mode output.
For this a small addition to your .emacs file and you are done. Of course after installing the dependencies. I also came to know about another nice package nicefrac for using in the documents.
For Fedora #yum install texlive-tufte-latex should do the job. Also some font problems may arise which can be solved by running updmap and enabling the needed font.

 ;; tufte-book class for writing classy books
(require 'org-latex)
(add-to-list 'org-export-latex-classes
'("tuftebook"
"\\documentclass{tufte-book}\n
\\usepackage{color}
\\usepackage{amssymb}
\\usepackage{gensymb}
\\usepackage{nicefrac}
\\usepackage{units}"
("\\section{%s}" . "\\section*{%s}")
("\\subsection{%s}" . "\\subsection*{%s}")
("\\paragraph{%s}" . "\\paragraph*{%s}")
("\\subparagraph{%s}" . "\\subparagraph*{%s}")))
;; tufte-handout class for writing classy handouts and papers
(require 'org-latex)
(add-to-list 'org-export-latex-classes
'("tuftehandout"
"\\documentclass{tufte-handout}
\\usepackage{color}
\\usepackage{amssymb}
\\usepackage{amsmath}
\\usepackage{gensymb}
\\usepackage{nicefrac}
\\usepackage{units}"
("\\section{%s}" . "\\section*{%s}")
("\\subsection{%s}" . "\\subsection*{%s}")
("\\paragraph{%s}" . "\\paragraph*{%s}")
("\\subparagraph{%s}" . "\\subparagraph*{%s}")))

Once you have added these to .emacs, in the org-mode you have to define #LaTeX_CLASS: tuftehandout or #LaTeX_CLASS: tuftebook to invoke this style in the tex output.
Enjoy the Tuftesque typesetting in your own work! Some snippets from my work in progress, no figures so far.

Title Page

Table of contents

Main text

# Using Inkscape in Batch Mode

Recently I had to make and print a lot of certificates, each with different names and affiliations. There are programs in the Office environment which do this. They are called as Mail Merge, primarily being used for sending mass mails to many individuals.
Basically following happens:
You have a database of Names / Addresses and Affiliations with you. Lets say there are 500 names in this database. If you want to make certificates for everyone of them, it is not very bright to manually add every name to the certificates. What the program does is takes this list of names, and inserts it into a template and generates a file for each entry in the database. Which is to be printed.
I had designed a certificate for one of the programs using a Free Software   SVG Editor Inkscape, initially the number of entries was not large, but then they became too much for me to manage manually.
So then there is small plugin called the Inkscape Generator that came to help  me big time.
This is something that I had been exactly looking for.
As explained on the page for the plugin the database has to be in a csv format, which can be conveniently generated and edited in any of the spreadsheet programs like Calc for Libre Office. With this it becomes super-easy to generate pdf’s for each of the entries in the database.
Once all the pdf’s have been generated using pdftk one can simple join all the files in a single pdf file and print at one go.
To join:

pdftk *.pdf cat output combined.pdf

As simple as this.

# Che: Alive…

Usually the graffiti on the walls of Mumbai are eyesores. But this one somewhere in Fort was a pleasure to see…

# Some thing from this book needs no title…

I love the artist or scholar whose activity is like the bee
pursuing the delicious nectar of the flowers. The bee has no
mind to become a renowned authority on which flowers
contain the best nectar; the bee simply loves nectar. In all
probability, the bee, through his actual experience will soon
have a fantastic knowledge of the flower geography of his
neighborhood-as good perhaps as any human scholar who
“studies” botany. And I say the bee really knows the flower
much better than the botanist. The botanist merely knows
about the flower; the bee knows the flower directly. The more
analytically minded reader might well ask, at this point, just
what I mean by “knowing about something” versus “knowing it
directly.” I wish I could answer him! The distinction is so
difficult to explain rationally, and yet it is of such vital
importance.

# Heaven and Hell

Circle Limit IV
Heaven and Hell

by M C Escher

Yesterday I have put up Escher’s Circle Limit IV – Heaven and Hell on my new desk. The Circle Limit series of drawings was drawn by Escher are essentially what are known as his hyperbolic tesselations. The new computer table that I have got has an odd shape. On one end the side is circular and it smoothly metamorphises into rectangle on the other side. Though it is not at all comparable to what Escher has accomplished, I feel bad even when I use the word metamorphosis for this, but I have not found anything better. The table is designed for use with a desktop. So it has sections for different parts of the desktop like the monitor, CPU keyboard etc.
Anyways the main point that I want to tell is that the table at one end is circular. Since I had put Escher’s Three World on another table, I thought it would be a good idea to use a ciruclar print of Escher for this part of the table. Of all the prints I had, which I had taken when I had at my disposal A3 sized printers, the one which fitted the purpose seemed to be Circle Limit IV – Heaven and Hell.

Let us see what Escher himself has to say about this series of works viz. The Circle Limits:

So far four examples have been shown with points as limits of infinite smallness. A diminution in the size of the figures progressing in the opposite direction, i.e. from within outwards, leads to more satisfying results. The limit is no longer a point, but a line which border’s the whole complex and gives it a logical boundary. In this way one creates, as it were, a universe, a geometrical enclosure. If the progressive reduction in size radiates in all directions at an equal rate, then the limit becomes a circle. [1]

And he says this about Heaven and Hell:

CIRCLE LIMIT IV, (Heaven and Hell)
[Woodcut printed from2 blocks, 1960, diameter 42 cm]
Here also we have the components diminishing in size as they move outwards. The six largest (three white angels and three black devils) are arranged about the centre and radiate from it. The disc is divided into six sections in which, turn and turn about, the angels on a black background and then the devils on a white one, gain the upper hand. in this way, heaven and hell change place six times. In the intermediate, “earthly” stages, they are equivalent. [1]

Like most of Escher’s drawings this one also takes you to a different world. A world which is far away from the reality. A world of mathematics. A world of abstraction. But then as always we can make connections between this abstract world and the real world. The connections that we can make are dependent on the world view that we have. Some people fail to make the connection. They cannot `see’.

The Circle Limit series is what brought Escher to the eyes of the mathematicians. H. S. M. Coxeter used Circle Limit II as an illustration in his article on hyperbolic tesselations. Since then the other works of Escher have been examined by the mathematicians, and we find that very deep and fundamental ideaso of mathematics are embedded in them. As to how Escher did it is amazing. The kind of clear insight that Escher exhibits in his artwork is astounding. He could visualize the mathematical transformations in his head and then transform them onto the artwork he was working with. Escher has said

I have brought to light only one percent of what I have seen in the darkness. [2]

This must be certainly true, as most of his artwork is nowhere close to what we see in the light. I rate the artwork of Escher as greater than that of the renessaince artist’s as they had just beautifully drawn what one could “see.” But with Escher we go a step beyond, imagination takes the control. What interests me in Escher is that he can make you imagine the unimaginable. What you know is not possible is demonstrated just in front of your eyes. Logic is discarded. Rather it is kept in the basement which is upstairs for Escher.

Yesterday you start to believe what you thought was impossible tommorow.

The way different things merge for Escher is just unparalled in the work of other artists. What has now become known as “Escheresque” is just the typical of his style. Lot of later artists are influenced by the works of Escher, I have found one Istvaan Orosz particulary good. There are others who are equally good but I don’t remember their names now….

Coming back to Heaven and Hell. The main artwork is in a woodcut format in black and white. For me this is a kind of dyad which represents the world. The idea of two opposing forces one termed to be evil and the other good are all permeating in the Universe. Here also the bat-devils and the angels are the representative of the same. There is no part of the Universe where these two are not present. It might seem that somewhere far out there there is nothing, but it is not so. Even there, the design is the same, it is just too far for us to see. This is what harmony in the universe is about. It is the same everywhere, when you have a broad enough world-view. The cosmologists say that the Universe is homogenous and isotropic, if you choose to “see” it at the right scale. The cosmologists often use Heaven and Hell to illustrate this point. For me introduction to Escher came in a talk by a cosmologist who used The Waterfall to illustrate the idea of a perpetual motion machine. Since then I have become addicted to Escher, as has everybody else who has some sense of imagination. For those who cannot appreciate Escher, I can just pity at their miserable imagination.

References:

[1] The Graphic Work of M C Escher by M C Escher
Ballantine 1975, ISBN 345246780595

[2] M. C. Escher (Icons) by Julius Wiedemann (Editor)
Taschen 2006, ISBN 3822838691

# Kala Ghoda …

Yesterday in the evening went to Kala Ghoda – The art festival – in the art district of Mumbai..

Did not have much cash to buy any thing….

But any way went there…

The atmosphere was charged, people all around dressed in the trends of the season…
All the cream of Mumbai had descended on here…

There were some drawing portraits of others, some art forms so weird that you cannot make sense out of it…