Saturday, July 09, 2005

Miro and Picasso.

I've always liked contemporary art, and I'm usually careful to avoid the stigmatized term "modern art" as I introduce this. Once the purpose of Art moved away from representing reality - this came with the emergence of photography, there was clearly more to life than creating portraits and landscapes which were stunning in their ability to replicate life. This was, I'm convinced, the source of modern art and all that came with it. I'm yet to find any formal studies supporting this thought. So may be someday I'll try to do one. For the time being let this serve as my personal understanding of Modern Art.

Miro and Picasso had lives and careers that effectively spanned the birth and maturing of Modern art. Both spent time in Paris in the early part of the 20th century in the midst of all the avant garde poets, philosophers, artists and thinkers who seemed to congregate there at the time. Both were spanish and retained strong roots with spain, more so Miro than Picasso. Both formed very deep and strong styles which over their body of work becomes an entire system of codes, semiologies and symbols. Both turned their backs on realism though both draw great inspiration from it at different points in their career. And both seemed to understand the commercial aspects of their work alongside the purely artistic ones. And in an retrospective of their works, its diffucult not to get swept away by a feeling of awe at their capability to follow through on artistice beliefs which were significantly at odds with a lot of what preceded them.

The Fundacio Joan Miro at Montjuic in Barcelona offers a fairly comprehensive walk through of Miro's life - from the last decade of the 1800s, to his death in 1983. The contexts of the emergence of modern art, the impact of the Spanish civil wars, the World Wars and all that happened through his life is clearly reflected in much of his work, but also evident is his evolution through experimentation, analysis and self evaluation which leads him to continue creating and expressing prolifically through his life.

I came away with 2 clear thoughts from the Miro museum. First, that the right to express is fundamental and any and everybody's work needs to be seen in light of this right to express. This expression may/ may not please us aesthetically, but is valid expression nonetheless. The second, that it is in the larger appeal of this expression that the distinction between art and mere expression lies. Something is art because the expression of the creator appeals to a larger set of people and evokes an intellectual or emotional response, which is positive but not necessarily a happy one. When Miro draws a curvy line and calls it the Solitude of a Convicted Man Doomed to die, and explains that he has spent 10 years thinking of the perfect squiggle to represent this thought - gives this expression a validity. Whether it's art or not, depends on whether the world reacts to the same canvas in some active way. Of course, the critics cast an undue shadow on this objective reaction of a viewer, but that is a whole new debate, which I will continue later.

Joan Miro says "My refusal to create beautiful things has led me to use the most... incongruous material for my work"... this in many ways to me is the crux of contemporary art. A move away from the beautiful, but perhaps a move that brings us closer to symbols that reflect real life around us. Modern art therefore paradoxically, is more real by being more symbolic.


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