Thursday, 26 May 2011

Joan Miro, “The Ladder of Escape”, Tate Modern Museum, London, UK

Tate Modern Museum Exhibition: Joan Miro, “The Ladder of Escape”London, UK. For further details visit By Larissa Woolf, Arts Editorial Contributor

The Tate Modern in London has assembled a magnificent retrospective exhibition on the work of world renowned artist Joan Miro which runs through to 11 September 2011. The exhibition has brought together paintings and sculptures that span the whole of his career, from his first paintings in 1921 right through to work that he was producing at the end of his life. He produced a vast and amazing collection of work that testify to the creativity of the times and to his own personal and unique talent.

Born in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, Miro wanted to be a painter from an early age. His commitment to his native Catalonia and the family farm at Mont-roig and the influences of rural life can be particularly seen in his early works. His painting, ‘The Farm’ (bought by Hemmingway) which he finished in 1922 shows his amazing attention to detail; the painting is teeming with life as he captures the vitality and earthy sensuality of the Catalan scene. We see how his style evolves into an exploration of the inner world and the relation of reality to his imagination – he would soon be exploring with the ideals of Surrealism. In fact Andre Breton, the leader of the Surrealists in Paris called him ‘the most surreal of us all’ acknowledging Miro’s perpetually inventive imagination. ‘In the Head of a Catalan Peasant’ we see how Miro reduces this archetypal figure to a collection of abstract shapes; the hunter’s head is a triangle, there is a beard and pipe, each part combines together to make up a story against a backdrop of vivid blue. He claimed that Surrealism liberated his art and his mind. Eventually he would become fascinated by the subconscious as an alternative to the rational as he juxtaposed unrelated objects together.

The Barcelona series which he produced in the 1930s is a particularly arresting collection of work as we see 50 lithographs of distorted, often grotesque black and white figures teeming with each other. Miro draws eyes on heads, distorted faces and figures in a macabre ensemble of disquieting, nightmarish landscapes and creatures. We see how affected he and his art was by what was going on in the world around him and how the Spanish civil war which was devastating Spain gave him the real sense that the world was collapsing around him.

Yet Miro shows his artistic dexterity as we see in his most famous and beautiful series, The Constellations which he painted in January 1940. Here again the crescent moons, swirling lines, profusion of stars, eyes and arrows combine together with misshapen creatures. The art is both beautiful and disturbing, peaceful and disquieting, the figures of anxiety teem with symbols of beauty. However way it makes you feel Miro’s art certainly has extraordinary powers to bring out emotion and you cannot view his art without experiencing them. His symbolism became more and more pared down in his later works, seen most prominently in his series of blue triptychs which form perhaps the core of his technique. His later works, such as the Burnt Canvases which he created in late 1973 attest to his continuing energy and his challenging of orthodox ideas.

At the Tate Modern you will not only see some of Miro’s most famous and awe inspiring works but you will be able to learn about him as a man, artist and thinker and gain an understanding of his work. This champion of surrealism is well worth a visit!

Tate Modern Museum Exhibition: Joan Miro, “The Ladder of Escape”London, UK. For further details visit

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