The name Maurits Cornelis Escher (more commonly known as MC Escher) is intrinsically linked to the concept of infinity. An exploration of repetition and impossibility permeates his artwork—derived from science—creating worlds that are as surreal as they are realistic. His work is still relevant today; reflected in everything from video-game backgrounds to data visualization. In reality, Escher’s creations are the results of studying the laws of physics and optics, and also the arabesques that he admired in his travels along the Mediterranean coasts.
The late Escher’s artwork now makes for a brand new wallpaper collection (set to be unveiled at Milan Design Week) and we were given the chance to preview it. Paola Jannelli—director of CreativeLab and Communication at Jannelli & Volpi—fell in love with Escher’s work and decided to pay tribute to the great artist. In speaking with Jannelli she gave us insight into the mesmerizing project.
“Today people tend to consider beautiful that which is unique,” explains Jannelli, “But we believe in a deep re-evaluation of the module of repetition. Working on a modular design is fascinating and is also typical of wall and fabric decoration, our world. As an artist and scientist, Escher was able to express the sense of depth through two-dimensional representation. He had a unique ability to transform flat modules into space and volume.” According to Jannelli, this is an extremely contemporary language. Today, “we are led to approach the idea of depth through new technologies, where everything is made virtually,” she says. “As a result, we are losing the ability to imagine. We are no longer able to imagine space and volume, but Escher helps us to do it. His ability to combine scientific and artistic approaches, the ability to build along x-axis and y-axis, to create a world that always makes sense, hides a great wisdom.”
Jannelli says that this collection is just the beginning of the company’s renewed relationship with illustration, “With his work Escher always suggests to us to use the pencil to get to the most complete expressive form. This is something to keep in mind today. It seems like a good idea to use it as a trailblazer for future collections of international designers, with which to underline the artistic skills of creators from all over the world.”
Producing wallpapers, wall coverings and upholstery fabrics in a beautiful facility not far from Milan, Jannelli & Volpi’s Escher collection was made possible by studying the artist’s drawing technique and applying that to their technical process. “The base [of some wallpapers] had to respect the perfection of the stroke, so we chose a neutral white non-woven fabric and used a fairly simple printing technique, capable of underlining the perfection of the designs. We have also chosen a fabric with iridescent metallic effect for the themes dedicated to water and air.”
Consisting of Escher’s classical infinite patterns of horses, fish, birds, houses and deforming mirrors, the collection also includes large painting-like pieces. All the themes and colors are licensed by the MC Escher Company and MC Escher Foundation, so these wallpapers are the result of a constant (and official) collaboration between the organizations and Jannelli & Volpi. “We have had very precise guidelines,” Jannelli continues, “They provided us with the original drawings and every change was approved, both for designs and colors.”
Jannelli sees future collections dedicated to other masters, designers and illustrators. “We want to refer to the concept of designer in the most primeval sense. The profession of the designer was born in the 19th century with the industrial revolution and the rise of design as we understand it today. We start with an artist of that period but then we could also consider collections made by contemporary authors.”
Images courtesy of Jannelli & Volpi