This week, I was lucky enough to attend a special preview of the new exhibition of work by Catalan Surrealist artist Joan Miró at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I have to admit, I deliberated a bit before accepting. You see, I know embarrassingly little about art. I formally stopped studying art after GSCE, the highlight of which was a reinterpretation of the famous ‘Whistlejacket’ painting by Stubbs, which I’m sure proves that at that point in time, my mind was already in the stables. Still, the one thing I love to do more than anything else is learn something new, and art (in all its forms) is something that I am enjoying learning more about all the time. Making up for my misspent youth, perhaps. Attending the viewing and also listening to the team of curators speak about Miró, gave me the opportunity to learn more about this great artist whilst at the same time view this unique exhibition.
The exhibition focusses on Miró’s sculpture, although there are paintings too, in the Underground Gallery of YSP. What I found really fascinating about the collection is that Miró worked with different foundries at the same time, and as a result of that, produced completely different works. Viewed together, they look as though they’re from a different period, or a different artist, and yet they’re not. Some are giant bronzes, curved, smooth and beautiful. Around these sculptures I generally had to walk with my hands firmly clasped behind my back, to prevent me from reaching out and stroking them. Others are spikier, boldly coloured and make use of found objects to create totemic human forms. Both forms of sculpture have an overwhelming focus on the human form, interpreted through a Surrealist perspective and complete with all the requisite body parts (cue childish eyebrow raising from me), giving them what the curator called an ‘earthiness’ and reflecting Miró’s relationship with the Catalonian soil of his childhood. I always find the use of ‘found’ objects in art really poignant, and where Miró has used objects to represent things he feared might be lost from the world and placed in the context of the Spanish Civil War period of their creation, this is especially true.
Miró was older when he really got into his stride with sculpture, starting in the 1940s and ending a year before his death, in 1982. I love the idea of him, in what would have generally been considered his retirement age, creating these giant sculptures and getting more political and against ‘bourgeois art’ as he aged. He wanted his work to be a part of the fabric of life instead of being removed from it, and this is realised as some of his pieces of work are to be found in the streets across the world from Barcelona to Chicago.
So, I still know embarrassingly little about art, but I do know more about Miró now and I found this exhibition truly interesting. Some things I found beautiful, some things I felt that I didn’t fully understand, but everything provoked a response, which I think is a sure sign the exhibition is worth a repeat visit with my family. I have plans to create a Miró homage sculpture with the kids out of old boxes and bold coloured paint – although probably without all the body parts!
One thing the curator said that really struck me was that in Miró’s work can be seen his thoughts about humanity – both fear for it, but also hope about what humanity is and what it could be. If that isn’t a good reason to want to come and see this great and groundbreaking exhibition, I don’t know what is.
The Miró exhibition opens on 17th March 2012 and will be at Yorkshire Sculpture Park until January 2013. Alongside the sculptures inside the Underground Gallery are some more placed outside. This is in addition the Park’s incredible permanent sculpture collection displayed in the wonderful parkland, smaller exhibitions, workshops, special events and a great restaurant and store. It’s one of my favourite places in the whole world, please do go along for a visit!