At the Grand Palais in Paris, until 4th February, visitors will have the chance to meet the artist that the poet Prévert called “an innocent man with a smile on his lips, walking in the garden of his dreams”.
It is a 1925 painting that opens and gives the exhibition its title: an empty canvas where the word Photo is written on top and a blue stain on the left side and in French “the colour of my dreams”. A work in which the artist plays with words, painting, colour and dream.
The exhibition makes use of a powerful location and design, with 150 works arranged along a blue path, evoking the dreams of the artist born within the grandiose Mediterranean landscapes that nourished the painting style of the Catalan master. A “symphonic poem”, as Le Figaro has defined the exhibition. Miró, for whom painting and poetry had the same substance, would have surely approved.
The exhibition revisits Miró’s artistic evolution through paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and other work, while also highlighting the eclecticism of an artist who uses not only canvases and brushes but also cardboard, masonite, bronze and iron.
His beginnings in Barcelona were initially influenced by the Expressionism of Fauves and the Cubism of Picasso, however his arrival in Paris in the ’20s saw a change to his art. In the French capital, he was seduced by Surrealism, an artistic-literary movement for which true art arises from the unconscious. Adherence to these theories led to the maturation of his style by fully bringing out a “childish” component that can be traced back to the early works, yet which then found free expression.
The surrealists argued that a road to reach the unconscious was the art of children, so fertile because it is spontaneous and not yet conditioned by reason or social conventions. The “child” Miró was full of curiousity towards the wonders of the world, with a clear and naive look, for him painting must “… like a spark … dazzle …”. And it is the beauty of the world that Joan tried to investigate, while also simplifying it, in order to capture its essence. Therefore, reality is at the base of his art, albeit a starting point and not the final destination. He created a painting that is beyond figurative and abstract, because it is reality, simplified and seen through his dreams, and in such, creating a universe full of poetry.
He invented a new, apparently childish vocabulary. However, it was actually nourished by all the artistic experimentations through which he passed and by the seductions of the primitive art of Africa and Oceania, by which many artists had been influenced in those years, starting from Picasso. He erased the perspective system, arranged in a random order without any hierarchy geometric shapes, even more abstract structures and together eyes, stars, forms of animals and again ideograms, musical notes, anthropomorphic figures. The shapes seem to wander over a neutral space between the centre and the edges without any logical rigor. His was a combinatorial play on known and unusual forms out of a child’s dream, quite different from the nightmare scenarios of many surrealists, first of whom we could point to Dali. In fact, the feeling in Joan’s works is that of joy, an innocent and cheerful vitality. There is a state of grace from which painting seems to arise from spontaneous generation. His use of colours – red, yellow, blue and green that contend the field – add to this feeling, again used without a specific order.
This should not suggest that the artistic life of Miró was detached from the tragedies of the twentieth century. In the 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War, troubled by the impossibility of returning home, he created the so-called “savage” [or “wild”] paintings. The colours darken and the forms become contorted and massive, losing their lightness and as a result creating anguish.
After the civil war, he returned to a more serene painting with the series of Constellations, ceramics and panels for UNESCO.
Until the end of his life, the artist’s style evolved and his interest in bronze sculpture and ceramics increased. In the 1970s, his larger works were created for public spaces.
Visiting this exhibition means traveling through Miró’s dreams, because this is the true story line behind his art.
Anna Maria Calabretta