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The Wonderful World of Patterns, Repetitions, Design, and Art

I really like art and get inspiration from visits to museums. Usually, I don't look for a connection between exhibitions and artists, and enjoy each one separately. Recently, I visited two different and seemingly unrelated exhibitions, but a few days ago the connection between them suddenly became clear to me, it's about - patterns/paving surfaces/repeating patterns.

Patterns-1, Pop-Art and textiles

Last May, I visited the London Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, Bohemian and charming neighborhood, not far from London Bridge. The exhibition was called Andy Warhol the textiles. Let's start with the fact, that I didn't even know that Andy Warhol illustrated canvases, like most people, his name was associated in my mind with Pop Art.

It turns out that fabrics illustrations with repeating patterns, intended to be his privet art, but eventually, they were sold to commercial companies, and for a large part of them he did not receive credit, the company that bought the patterns put it's label on it (that's why to catalogue them, to date them back to when they were created is quite hard, and in this exhibition they are trying to do just that, it's summarized in the book of the exhibition which is beautiful).

The Exhibition book
Warhol The textiles - The Exhibition book

The illustrations were taken from the world of animals, plants and everyday life: butterflies, fruits such as lemons, melons, or from the still life, oysters, flowers, pots, perfume bottles, ice creams, and more, printed on fabric. Sometimes he used the same design in several different sizes, usually also choosing a certain color palette each time. In this way, by replicating and incorporating art into consumer products, even ordinary people could afford to purchase works of art. The fabrics were mainly used for clothing, curtains and even wrapping paper for gifts. The refreshing colors, the simplicity and sometimes even the naivety of the prints, made me walk around the museum with a big smile, I would happily wear dresses with Andy Warhol prints!

New York was considered the center of fashion and textiles in the 1950s and collaborations between designers, artisans and fabric manufacturing companies flourished. One of the well-known collaborations was in 1954 - when Dan Fuller, from the textile company Fuller Fabrics, initiated a collaboration with artists such as Picasso and Miro. In 1956 the company even participated in an exhibition called Textile USA at the Moma Museum in New York with works by these artists and more. Andy Warhol who always knew how to identify trends, and was aware of this one, designed 3 floral samples for the company after several years.

Photos taken by me, at Fashion + Textile Museum May 2023

A little bit about the artist, he became famous as a Pop Art artist - turned popular products into art, blurring the boundaries between industrial products and art. He worked a lot in the world of advertising, designed packaging, illustrated magazines and newspapers. When he tried to be a "serious" artist, he was less successful, so he took everyday consumer goods such as $ bills, coke cans, figures of famous people (one of the well-known was Marilyn Monroe), and turned them into art! Andy Warhol studied at the Technological Institute of Art, Design and Illustration, and started a career as an industrial designer. He called himself a "business artist" his philosophy as he wrote in his book "The Philosophy of Andy Warhol" was, as he summed it up in one sentence, "Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art, and good business is the best art"

Patterns 2- repeating, changing, realistic and surrealistic

In July, I visited The Hague, Netherlands, to attend an exhibition held in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the birth of the esteemed Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, and his revered teacher and friend Samuel Jessurun Mesquita (who was murdered in the Holocaust). The museum is housed in the Winter Palace where the Queen Mother lived, which is charming in itself. Escher, known for works that captivates the viewer's perception, invites you to gaze at his images for hours, provoking contemplation whether you're observing a waterfall or a fountain, individuals ascending or descending stairs, and more. Remarkably, years following his passing, mathematicians who delved into his creations unveiled underlying mathematical constructs, underscoring that his art, driven by a fascination for perspective, was grounded in intricate mathematical models. Interestingly, despite identifying as a modest mathematician and considering himself a somewhat unexceptional artist, Escher's legacy stands as a testament to his exceptional artistic and mathematical fusion.

Escher created mostly prints. He designed several types of templates

1. Patterns that start with a certain element and end with another element (the first picture from the left)

Like for example "Sky & Water":- Fish that gradually turn into birds. The piece is in black and white, the gray fish are white on a black background and end with black birds on a white background.

2. A pattern that starts with real elements and ends with abstract shapes (the picture in the middle)

A work that begins (or ends, it's all a matter of perspective) with small gray birds that grow until they become black and white abstract shapes freed from all limitations. The piece is called "Liberation".

3. Patterns that contain repeating shapes that look like tiles (first picture on the right)

In these works there is no beginning, no end, and no gaps between the elements. This is a surface without a background, if we attach another identical tile to the edge of the tile, an infinite repetition of the elements will be possible.

What is special about Asher's "tiles" is the contrast in colors, which allows one to see the same repeating shape in the light color as well as the dark color. Most of them consist of shapes of animals or people and were created in the twenties of the last century.

A bit about the artist, M.C. Escher came from an wealthy family in Leeuwarden, Holland. In the 1920's, he studied at The School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem. At first in the architecture major, and then he switched to design. He was influenced by his teacher J. M. Mesquita who created fabric designs in the Art Nouveau style, and noticed his graphic talent and encouraged him to peruse graphic design . Due to little interest in these works he abandoned this style but returned to it following a visit to the Alhambra Palace in Spain in 1936 where he was fascinated by the painted Islamic tiles.

The right picture was taken by me at Exhibition in The Hague - Escher in the Palace

In July 2023, the other 2 were taken from the Smartify app I used to navigate the exhibition.

What is common and different between the two artists?

The works of both, very influential in the art world, are quite different in terms of style, themes and artistic approach. There is no direct connection between their work, as they were active in different artistic movements even though some of the years they were active overlapped (the first in Europe and the second in the US). They also explored different concepts. However, there are some points where their work intersects.