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From Lisbon to NY

Vicent Berenguer

The idea of a step forward in the work of Antoni Miró could become a clue in which very suggestive aspects can be found behind. It is clear that whole life is an inexorable stage, from birth to death. The question is how we go and if during this transit some knowledge is stirring curiosity in us and, thus, at the same time with our life we contribute to some halo of meaning to this world, whether we contribute or not to ennoble it a bit.

Because of the characteristics of the art of painting, there is no doubt the world would be inconceivable without it. The human being is represented by the painting and he develops an especially protean plastic language that, together with the rest of expressive means or languages, contributes to an integrity of the human imaginary; collective that reminds us at all times that humans are walking a path with some guidelines concerning so far and for the vast majority the essentiality of what we are constituted of: hunger, joy, desire, fear, ambition, hate, etc., without forgetting some rudiments of reason and intelligence that are not always used in the most generous way.

In the history of painting it seems to me that these aspects have an oppressive continuity, and from this plastic language they try to develop a moral nature, perhaps related to solidarity between the species although they have not always achieved it. Therefore, among the landscape, the decoration of the pictorial background, from the walls of the caverns to the surfaces on which it is painted in our days, the art works seem always subordinated in the search of a moral sense, addressed to the ongoing search to find a reason in the disturbing human background to decipher it from the viscera to the skin or vice versa. And I would affirm that a work moves us, especially whenever it points or supports some moral intention, when its contemplation shakes the conscience in addition to the first impressions more or less sensorial. A diverting and feverish sense evidentially exists in the act of painting but exhibiting it alone means leaving the creative process and its purpose unfinished, which I think it is aesthetically unjustifiable.

Until now, the work of Antoni Miró is going through a long journey and fortunately it is still fully opened to unexpected directions. The transition from one topic to another is always noticeable by the moral aspect: hunger, nudity, poverty, the mad, black America, the dollar, Chile, Pinteu Pintura (paint paintings), a certain claim on identity, vivace, without title, etc. These issues are not only obsessions generated by the biographical drive of the artist since they have a clear origin in everyday events and consciously in the political sphere in large part. Undoubtedly, the author is in the world, but it is equally true that he is looking at it or studying it attentively from a specific place, in a dialogue from the local to the global. And from here, the moral position in the painting of Antoni Miró is going through episodes with a great plastic demand as it is seen through the last decades where he has successively sought a certain complaint by swallowing the present and also digesting the tradition. Tradition, by itself, is already an aspect that points a further considerable variety of creative position takings. For these reasons, the scope of all his pictorial cycles, retrospectively viewed, leads me to insist on these clear moral characteristics perhaps with a quality and a scope that I do not find easy to exhaustively fix. By the global vision of his work, it is now possible to imagine without much difficulty that the pure description of the elements painted in his works informs us of this moral to which is alluded in an unconventional way. It may scare someone at some point the density of intentions or moral and plastic sense that can be found in the work of Antoni Miró; it seems to me that, in any case, the cause instead of being in him is in the period which provides him with this incessant argument.

From his first works to the very last, always captivating from my point of view, the series that can be considered more ambitious are for example “De Lisboa” (From Lisbon), “NY”, going through the more “popular” ones (like bicycles, nudes, collages...). The realization of each work is not free of the association between the seduction of the flesh and the seduction that painting exerts, without a doubt from the eyes of an artist of today captivated by history. It should be added this allegory as a resource we admirably find from Romanesque to Surrealism; it is a long tradition and Antoni Miró continues it and perseveres it by having created a personal universe in a permanent dialogue. It is obvious that it is a very creative attitude since, in the contemplation of the painting, we are induced to certain readings that can be enriched according to the nature of its elements and the cultural sensitivity of the viewer or reader. In this way, his paintings, apart from causing the act of seeing in the conscience, it surprises with the breaking of conventions so that the reader of the painting is aware of the relationships established with the world from an undeniable sense of contemporaneity but also with an appeal to the meaning of history. That is why each work, by itself, can obviously be read as a whole, but the whole, from its undoubted complexity, would also allow its reading from a uniqueness point: with a moral intention.

Launched in 2003, the series “De Lisboa” (From Lisbon) -engravings, etchings, paintings- represents another stage of Antoni Miró to explain the stature of today’s society and obviously of the man. Now the object and the pretext of the painting is the city of Lisbon, from which it emerges, anecdotally, an obvious homage to the city that, nevertheless, is at the service of the Miró’s universe, of the search of some trace of consciousness recognized through any human into the mythical universe in the city of the Tagus. Therefore, from some scenarios, some of them deeply marked as those left by Fernando Pessoa, Antoni Miró projects the light and the shadow of his plastic syntax to see this city despite saying renewed things and leaving others uncertain, others perennials and also some detained in an area by stopping the time. Rossio, Baixa, Chiado, etc. are an idea of a romantic city that seemed already defined by history or perhaps by the inevitable tourism which disturbs us and brings us echoes of the distress of Pessoa; some urban scenarios involve inquisitiveness and contradictions by the way the old and the new coexist; somehow commending our illusions in a sense of disbelieving or believing in a God or a non-God in order to feel disappointed.

Admitting being indebted to Pessoa, it could be accepted that going through a city now called Lisbon at this time is a good exercise in knowledge. This is the idea that I would suggest to explain the atmosphere in which the word “now” will be equivalent to admire Antoni Miró’s work at any time; works in which different streets, innocent animals and a river showed up; scenarios full of dramas and small joys which safely captivated us by the same dramas described in the songbook of Camões -if we leave behind the epopee- but Pessoa demystifies them in terms of its contemporaneity and, thus, breaks both the easy and pleasant dream of the glorious past and the illusory future to remind the solitary individual of the corruption of many hopes in the twentieth century. Pessoa affirms that the good dreamer does not wake up and at the point where a Pessoan character asks such a terrifying and precious thing of what is “there”, he is told that “it is the world”. It will seem an appreciation with naive appearance but it is not comfortable to verify it. Pessoa was a mystic who wanted to believe, but who disbelieved by his temptation and his principles. His intuitions, after him, have invaded Lisbon and have surpassed it by advancing towards the rest of the western or westernized world and by not listening to it which is not easy. Unfortunately, the sense developed by the current consumer society is converging in these auguries, and from coexisting with this perception we may have to make an art in the most possible lucid way. The stage of Antoni Miró in this city, considering the city as a metaphor of the world, has brought him to keep hold of this atmosphere since his task is to illuminate this barbarian comedy -sometimes tragedy- that we represent to simulate how we can survive in this society of the unpredictable post-future. The “NY” collection was launched in 2002 and it represents another stage in Antoni Miró’s painting. In addition to the works of common sizes, the use of cuboids’ support creates a new discourse determining new perceptions of the work. The large size to address some issues concerning the American life, or especially New York, can easily cause feelings of power and strain. In this case, Antoni Miró has accommodated a peculiar interpretation of NY in a box; a cuboid artefact. It seems that, in this way, the concentration of this city symbols, through this artefact, entrusts to scrutinize its details from a new space, in three dimensions, and what we find are tests, reluctant tests of economic power. How to explain this city, the artist can be asked, to those who already explain everything to themselves because it seems that we all explain everything. The current man, the man of this world after the future, already explains everything. But against this credulity, art has to continue inventing autonomy to meaningfully express itself.

In these works of today it may possible to strongly achieve to avoid the dangerous common places when an artist goes to the other side of the Atlantic and goes to NY. «NY» is not only the metaphor of the new plastic concept that Antoni Miró wants us to incorporate this metropolis to our battered imaginary; it is the same image of evidence, the seduction of evidence as an image of the modernity dream which probably has many elements of falsehood or intoxication of consciousness. It may be possible that in the emptiness of this cuboid, the void of consciousness generated by this city in the western world is largely contained, if NY has not already kidnapped the western world, and this -applauded- world is exclusively occupied by it: the emptiness of consciousness. There will be somebody with good will behind some window of these skyscrapers, there will be something more than publicity within these “New York” works, there will be some person going through those streets trusting the good will of the dreams that they offer; those are things I wonder. Now, the macabre attacks of the ll-S with the known result of the disappearance of the Twin Towers have made us question some certainties we had until then. If the answer is more and better NY in the same sense as it seems it will be, it will probably make our conscience even smaller. In Antoni Miró’s works such awareness is already intuited to be moved fragilely, easily to manage but brittle, with many open or closed windows but being concerned of their future. Fernando Pessoa, who also cared about conscience, from the other side of the Atlantic intuited the folly of wars since he was sure that the winner was always an idiot in order to make us see successively how we have fallen back from the civilization of Greece and Rome. It is a good approach to remember the origin of the foolishness and, at the same time, the matter we are constituted: hunger, joy, desire, fear, ambition, hatred, etc.; things still remaining.

Art emerges in the social group and may become a double-edged sword, you can ask why that verticality is always looking for more height, but now, before the plastic artefact of Antoni Miró, art can also give some answers: the answer is that we have get oppressed, we are fragile and we have to distrust the false authentic gods who want to come and save us. These works come to think that the man of prehistory painted the animals surrounding him, he hunted them and he was also hunted by the man, because for some of them the man’s hunting is an opportunity to get a promotion, and the use they make of technology has made it possible to exclusively improve its cruelty so that the verification of that we are pushing back civilization must be immediately and seriously considered. Art expresses the fullness of life and it also helps to remember that hominids often commit great stupidities. Humans not also conquer verticality but they also have a courteous moral mission trough the art: to remember that men and women have to think doing what is right. The place is the planet and the planet is the place for every person.


More texts from Vicent Berenguer regarding Antoni Miró