Joan Miro: The Ladder of Escape

Posted on: 19 April 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

Showing from 14th April – 11th September at the Tate Modern, get there while you can!

MiroLondon, like all cities and most probably like anywhere you live, can easily be taken for granted. When I moved to London 6 years ago, I dreamt of spending idle afternoons in the cities many galleries, taking in the gamut free art on my doorstep and sipping coffee on terraces overlooking the Thames. You'll be unsurprised to hear that that is not reflective  of  my real London life.  So yesterday afternoon I pottered over to the South Bank – because I can. 

I trotted past The Globe, a theatre I’ve never stepped in (shocking really) to land at the iconic Tate modern. The giant factory, itself a metaphor for industrial revolution now houses a collection of the world’s most influential modern masterpieces – no matter how many times I’ve been, the Tate Modern still reminds me of everything that is great about the city and I feel like I’ve arrived once again into the big smoke from the northern countryside.

Judging by the bored looking kids and first date ‘culture-fakers’ yesterday, I know that art isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but in my opinion, there is no gallery like the Tate Modern. It isn’t stuffy, pretentious or painfully silent and if you want to go and question art, or see whether you’re even interested, then the Tate Modern is the place to go.

I visited specifically to see the Joan Miro retrospective, and while I could spot a Miro in a gallery, I would never say I was a great fan or aficionado of his work, but that all changed yesterday.  The incredible thing about Miro is the fact that he spanned arguably the most innovative century of art – born in 1893 and dying 1983, Miro’s professional career spanned 60 years and that is what makes the exhibition so relevant. You can walk through the exhibition and watch his style evolve, from a young artist right through to his eighties. the retrospective, other artists creep into my head, his early works, like ‘The Farm’ have the tonal quality of Van Gogh, his early surrealist pieces are reminiscent of Dali and some of his rougher works during the 60’s have a Rauschenberg feel, with ripped newspaper, tissue and layered collages. I would recommend any art lover to visit the exhibition if for nothing else but to see a history of modern art evolving in front of their eyes.

It was his more 'modern' art that stood out for me. The giant triptychs, which occupied their own room, were breathtaking and just like the old Rothko Room, were curated perfectly. While Rothko’s room had a calming influence on me, I found the Miro room a lot more oppressive and lonely, which considering the title of “White background for the cell of a recluse” and “The hope of a condemned man” isn’t really that surprising.

It is often quipped that ‘modern’ art is just throwing some paint on a canvas, but the joy of this exhibition is that it demonstrated Miro’s meticulous approach. Through sketches and drafts, we are given a window into the psyche of a great artist, just like an expert pianist playing out of tune, Miro could make the considered look spontaneous.

His entire career was marked by imagination and experimentation with a nod to his Spanish homeland and the Catalan people. Miro lived to see the collapse of Franco’s regime and on receiving an honourary degree from the University of Barcelona said “I understand that an artist is someone who, in the midst of others’ silence, uses his own voice to say something and who makes sure that what he says is not useless, but something that is useful to mankind.” 

Tickets for the Tate Modern Joan Miro retrospective are £15.50 for adults and £13.50 for concessions, the exhibition is open from 10am to 6pm with the last admissions at 5.15pm.

 To find out more about the exhibition click here 

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