A happy game and a labor of love

Modern art is a game, the serious, foolish, ironic, solemn, happy game of life. Joan Miro reached such a conclusion while a member of the avant-garde in Paris. He studied and experimented with all ideas that this whirling, exciting, passionate art center offered. Finally he discovered himself and developed into one of the most beguiling artists of our time.

Through the years he has maintained a true artist's magnificent childlike love for the absurdities of this world and has lost none of the originality, freshness, and gaiety in his inimitable art. At age 85 he produced, among other things, stage decor and costumes for a spectacle at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

Miro believes any work of art, even that of the Louvre, should be approached like this: "First and foremost it is the visual shock which counts. Afterwards, one has a desire to know what it says, what it represents -- but only afterwards."

In the painting reproduced here our interest is captured by the vibrant forms , red, yellow, in movement on a mat black background. Then we note the surrounding images, mostly blue-gray, fish, stars, other whimsical shapes including crescent moons arranged as wings of a strange bug, what does it mean?

It could be interpreted as two suns encircled by their flames dancing a lively ballet while the chorus moves about in mysterious space. We must, however, keep in mind that no work of art can or should be reduced to such rational conventional elements of knowing and representation; its roots are in the temperament of the artist, and the vision produced comes from within him.

In this painting, entitled "Self-Portrait 2," Miro has abandoned himself to fantasy; visual poetry is roving in an enchanted world where fables are the norm.

At the Escolta di Art de Gali, in his native Barcelona, Miro received a thorough and imaginative initiation into modern art. One day a week Sr. Gali took the students on a field trip, advising them not to bring sketchbooks, only to wear a crown of eyes around their head. On those evenings they listened to music and poetry, a practice Miro still continues. As he expresses it, "Night, music, and the stars play a primary role among the influences of my art. . . . I am overwhelmed when I see in an immense sky the crescent of the moon." And "For a thousand men of letters, give me one poet."

To facilitate Miro's perception of form, Gali would blindfold him before placing an object in his hand, then ask him to sketch it, sight unseen. It was just another step to painting dreams. Miro, who exhibited many times with the surrealists, is credited with transforming their tendencies to derision and destruction into a singularly positive method of creating.

Miro now works with ease, spontaneously, emotions stirred, however, not in a trance. He explains, "a few casual wipes of the brush in cleaning it may suggest the beginning of a picture. Subsequently, I control everything carefully. A painting should be calculated to the nearest millimeter and, in equilibrium, to the smallest detail of that millimeter." An audacious artist, yes, at the same time a precise craftsman.

Although in 1920 Miro moved to Paris, he has remained Spanish -- better, Catalan. He spends much time in the mountain village of Montroig near Barcelona and in Palma de Mallorca, where in 1956 he fulfilled the long-felt "dream of a large studio."

The majority of his figures are transmutations from childhood memories. Indelibly imprinted on his young sensibilities were Catalonian people and objects, cave paintings, Romanesque frescoes, the tiny mechanisms in watches his father made, handwrought ironwork, the fish of the Mediterranean, small burlesque carved figures of Mallorca.

Miro has always been fascinated by his materials. He particularly likes to paint on unfinished canvas. "The roughness of the fabric makes me feel like a farmhand whose plow has struck some large stone." Besides, he gets an effect unobtainable otherwise. Using well-nourished paint, he lets it soak in, saturate the material. The intense alive ground this provides causes the sharply focused colors to burst out like the flowers in Tarragona.

Miro rejects the word abstractionm . He insists all his characterization evolve from reality, come from the absolute of nature, and embody the inherent qualities of what they depict.

"Self-Potrait 2" is realistic, in Miro's unacademic terms; it portrays the absolute of Miro -- the true essence of poetry -- pictorially expressed.

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