Jos de Mey
Painting after M.C. Escher
This title has a dual significance: painting "after" Escher and painting "from" (or as) Escher.
It was in 1956 when I first got to know the works of M.C. Escher. I took part in an exhibition of modern interior design in the Museum For Applied Art in Ghent. Apart from my furniture designs I had also made an abstract wall painting.
In that same museum there was about that time also an exhibition of the works of Escher. His works made an enormous impression on me. Especially the images "Wrinkling", "Quagmire" and "Dewdrop" I would never forget.
Later, in 1958, I was at the world exhibition in Brussels with some of my works of art based on the Fibonacci series, the Golden Edge and the "Modulor" of Le Corbusier.
In 1959 Professor M. Verzele gave me a copy of the article written by father and son Penrose on the impossible figures from the "British Journal of Psychology".
In 1963 I discovered through my colleague Mr. de Vogelaere the "Tree of Pythagoras" as it was drawn bij A. Bosman.
In the early sixties there was a huge study done together with my students of the Royal Academy on polyhedrons and other geometric three-dimensional structures.
Around 1966 complicated circular compositions and studies of symmetrical
divisions within the square and the cube were realised.
It was about "The General Mineralogy and Crystallography" of
professor Dr. B.G. Escher, brother of M.C.
In 1968 I visited the huge exhibition on M.C. Escher in the Municipial Museum of The Hague.
Accidentally or not, but in that same year I decided to finish my private practice (of interior design, furniture and colour advice) in order to be able to dedicate myself, beside my teaching activities at the Higher Institute of Architecture, entirely to a career as an artist.
Until then I had only made drafts and realised projects that had to be always very accurate and feasible.
As counterpart to all that exactitude I was determined to make things that could only exist as work of art. What I was going to show in my designs and paintings should be something unfeasible, i.e. non-existing. So I came inevitably up to the Impossible Figures.
The first paintings from the period between 1968 and 1976 were colourful abstract compositions based on a.o. Thiery's Figures and the dual line drawings of Josef Albers. Those paintings showed generally "things" that hung in an unexisting space. They were representations of unexisting objects that neither had an upper or bottom side nor any left or right side. If the paintings were not signed you could easily hang them upside down or even slantwise.
Later on the structures or constructions were put on a kind of base or on an indefinite, neutral surface.
And around 1976 my works became more and more figurative emphasising the "Trompe L'CEil"-effects, i.e. cheating the eye, using an exact reproduction of the material and thoroughly studied light and shadow effects. I paid enormous attention to the surrounding landscape with a detailed reproduction of the air, the grass, the trees, the small houses, the water, etc.
Painting impossible figures as such, increases their assumed reality. For me it was also a possibility to distinguish myself from the anonimous international abstractness. And so I could experience the pleasure of being able to represent something that couldn't be and do it in such a convincing way that one is likely to think that it really could exist.
It indeed occurs that less experienced visitors claim that my paintings are not painted but photographed.This is something that with representations of impossible figures is of course rather "contradictory".
And now I would like to talk about some aspects of my works a lot of questions are asked about.
Apart from those six frequent questions I would like to explain some other interpretations and methods.
The shiny, impersonal, painfully exact painting technique.
The incidence of light
Finally I would like to point out that I've always only wanted to satisfy the "Eye" and the "Mind". I'm totally convinced of the fact that the eye doesn't mean anything without the mind. Art that only satisfies the mind is interesting. Art that only satisfies the eye is superficial. That's why I always look for art that is both interesting and estetically satisfying. ...
Zomergem, 29th January 1998
P.S. Looking back I would say that there are a lot of similarities
between M.C Escher and myself. Certainly as far as our interests are concerned. I'm less scientifically gifted and
educated than M.C. Escher and also in the perception of nature there are some differences.