Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A symphony of Line - Joan Miro Foundation, Barcelona

In January of this year, by chance and pure luck, I found myself in Barcelona at the same time as Frantisek Kupka. A retrospective of the painter's works was held at the Joan Miro Foundation, atop Montjuic, the highest natural point in Barcelona. The gallery itself is a wonderful architectural space that looks out on the whole of Barcelona, and I could sit there for hours, even if there was no art, just looking out at the city below. The grounds are dotted with Miro and Calder sculpture.

However, more stunning than all of this was the interplay of the works of the 3 artists exhibited; Frantisek Kupka, Alexander Calder and, of course, Joan Miro. The one thing that struck me was the interesting use of line each of these artists has made his own.

[Frantisek Kupka, Vertical and Diagonal Planes, c 1914-15, Oil on Canvas. Source: here]

The retrospective of Kupka shows the evolution of his art, his amazing work as a colourist and his use of both geometric and organic line. Kupka is a complex artist, hard to define or classify into a certain movement within the 20th Century. Perhaps that is because the artist "never felt comfortable with the limits imposed by specific movements". His body of work contains de Stijl style; basic geometric forms with basic colours as well as abstractions showing an acute understanding of tone and hue in concentric circles and organic forms. His work, although referencing the world, is totally formalist, concerned only with the painting - the colour and the form, and devoid of narrative and allegory;

"Imitative painting belongs to the past, to the era where there were still witches, mystics and alchemists" - F. Kupka

[Joan Miro, Morning Star, 1940, Guache, oil and pastel on paper, 38x46cm, source: here]

Miro, on the other hand, is classically expressive. He has worked in various mediums (all of which are exhibited in his foundation), but his paintings in particular display an automatism associated with the unconscious mind and surrealism. Even his sculptures contain a sense of surrealism, with recognisable and juxtaposed references to the natural world, coupled with a naive or primitive aesthetic, I can't decide which I would use to more aptly describe Miro. his use of line is in the expressive qualities of art-making. He does not use line as meticulously and conscously as Kupka. However, the two artists complement each other.

[Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1942, Sheet Metal and Wire. Source: here]

Alexander Calder has yet another approach to the use of line. His works, and his mobiles in particular, are concerned with lines in space- how a line becomes and object and interacts with the space in which it is found. The lines in his mobiles and sculptures juxtapose with the solid shapes. They begin as static - but by becoming incorporated into his pieces, they become dynamic.
[For more info: Joan Miro Foundation]

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