Recently Marko Daniel, Matthew Gale, Kerryn Greenberg, and Teresa Montaner curated a Joan Miro exhibition The Ladder of Escape at the Tate Modern, and I must say it is one of the most well put together exhibitions I have ever seen.
I must admit I have never liked the way I have seen Miro displayed until this exhibition, and because of this phenomenal display I now have a new since of understanding of Miro's work. I have a new found love and appreciation for it.
The exhibition goes through Miro's earlier well developed works. The style in is earlier work jumped in style a little which made the flow of the room jump a little, but as you continue through the rooms the work becomes more and more styled and developed and you can sense the change in the artist's life and development of his painting.
The painter's development begins to peek through I believe in the 1930's after the Catalan Peasant movement in his work. The taste of bitterness in an easy to swallow pill because of his use of colours becoming brighter. You see chaos ensue within the paintings. I find myself being disturbed but unable to look away. I laughed to myself when I think about Figures Devant un Volcan (Figures in Front of a Volcano). His titles sometimes say it all. The world is about to explode. Seeing what happens today around the world, I can definitely relate to this feeling. The work proceeds more and more into Surrealism. The civil war in Spain is escalating. He stays in France with his family out of the turmoil in Spain. I found Still Life with Old Shoe one of my favourites from this movement. It moves into a dark back ground with neon colours. Almost as if he is in a dream.
At the beginning of the 1940's we see another change in the artist's work, as constellations become his inspiration. The artist actually uses the shapes of iconic stars in his work and there is almost a constellation order to the lines, dots, shapes and small drawings to the work. The backgrounds are beautiful, some reminding me of sunrises or sunset colours. I founds these works very aesthetically pleasing to look at. I wouldn't really get a hint of WWII breaking out around him except for these little monsters with gapping mouths seemingly about to eat something in the piece. It was like he wanted to Keep Calm and Carry On, as the British were saying at the moment. In all seriousness, sometimes you have to paint something beautiful when the world is so ugly around you. Why not look up and get some inspiration. This part of Miro's work had never been brought to my attention until now. I found the room filled with this style of work to be very moving. I took time with each one to see all the little things in it. I selfishly wanted to kick everyone out of the room and have it all to myself to enjoy each piece. Even with the larger crowds it was nice to hear peoples comments on the work while you were waiting to see it for yourself. All good things come to those that wait. Isn't that the saying?
A voice came through the paintings in the period of 1934-1941 then the line, shapes and colours became even stronger in the 60's and 70's. These works show the artist's response to life and the politics at the time disturbing him. Yet we see the title The Hope of a Condemned Man and the piece itself being larger than life. Giving this viewer a since of empowerment.
As the rooms continue, you see the works where Miro is giving back to his community. Grand scale murals, the canvas becomes larger and larger. I have never seen nor knew about the burnt canvases. I can't believe this work escaped me until now. As an artist what would it take for me to burn a piece? He really wanted to show you the bare bones, this is paint, this is a canvas, and those are stretcher bars. While reading more about the pieces you see that Miro wanted you to be able to look through the empty space of the burnt canvases. He wanted you to see natural landscapes. This idea fascinates me. But what empowered me the most was the room with the Triptychs.
I have seen a series of these Triptychs before and they have not evoked emotion out of me like they did in this exhibition. It is my opinon, and that of others, that art work should evoke something out of you. It should cause you to stare. This might be a disturbed, an awed, a shocked and glamorized reaction, but still a reaction of some kind to the art work. The way in which all art work is displayed is important. It can make or break a piece. My hats off to Marko Daniel with the Triptychs display. Rather than putting these works on a large room with large walls, where the scale of the actual piece doesn't shock you as much, this curator put the Triptychs in their own room. The pieces took up the space and surrounded the viewer. They made you a part of them. It made you look at them and realize what was so astounding about these pieces. I felt the need to stay in this room.
The over all show was astounding. I hope no one missed it. If you did you really have missed an amazing display. Go buy the exhibition book at the Tate and cry yourself to sleep. A good artist with the right curators can really make you see an artist and become inspired. I want to shout out thank you to the curators for making Miro come alive.