26 Jul 2011

Miro, Miro on the wall …Mirror of our tortured souls?

Flush with just about all the bad news any of us can absorb, I made my way last night to see the Tate Modern’s vast blockbuster Miro show. Entering the building with friends I felt the cares of the world slip away and prepared to indulge my soul. And what an indulging!

The first room displays beautifully observed realist painting of his childhood home in Barcelona. I say realist, but something surreal begins to emerge in each. Then the deluge, the explosion into what he became famous for – full blown, at times angry, radical, surrealism. It kicks off with ‘Dog Barking at the Moon’ with a ladder disappearing into the black.

Suddenly I was back. Although Miro was addressing the repression of Catalan identity, the seed bed of the Civil war to come – war, exile, fascism, suffering were all in his pallet. Yet somehow now Miro was speaking to our present day.

Norway, Somalia, Murdoch, and Winehouse… somehow the turmoil of each is there on the walls of Tate Modern. At one point, there is a great sweep of some fifty lithographs depicting toothy ogres, dictators and their innocent victims. The monstrous massacre of young people on a Norwegian island; the suffering of nomadic Somalis in the Horn of Africa; the consequences of unaccountable power that has wormed its way into all public life; the death of a single talented tortured soul. All reach out from a time when Miro was struggling with fascism at home and abroad. Having fled fascist Spain for sublime Paris, he is, all too soon, forced to flee Nazi storm troopers for restless rebellion back home in his beloved Catalonia.

Maybe this is what art does – exercises our present emotions with the consequences of other times experienced by the artist’s head and eye.

But Miro finds vast canvasses of peace too. A wonderful run of three vast rich blue canvases. Followed by another triptych of huge white-based canvases representing “Hope of a Condemned Man”. For the old student rebel, his burnt, holed, placard canvases from 1968 have a particular resonance.

You find what you find in a show like this. But I emerged somehow reassured and purged of the thought that this is in any way the worst of times. It is not. Today’s vile behaviours are aberrant. In Miro’s heyday tyranny was the norm.

Catch it before Miro, Miro is off the wall – an exhibition of his work on this scale will not come again in our time.


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