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Highlights on the general catalogue of Antoni Miró

Wences Rambla

Out of other meanings we wonder whether 2000 taken as a plain time-counting number would not push us backwards to re-enter a time-space range, where events have not ceased to occur one after another. Indeed, as far as concerns Antoni Miró, there is a milestone that, whilst looking back, marks an enthralling period throughout which our artist has shown —besides his parts for painting and sculpture— a continued effort in the field of graphic works.

As Manuel Vicent used to say, if the world recreated by Miró’s artistic trajectory is widespread and protean, spanning from sex to politics, from pop interpretation of the history of art to the denunciation of violence, to the sarcastic mockery of puppets, shrines and sacred events, to the endowment of changing common objects, images or household goods, into objects of poetry... there must also be underlined, such as I shall try to do, that apart from this plastic recreation there is something else lying underneath. He has taken up as his own the old tune “soul, heart and life” to imprint his artistic activity, which is somehow crystallized through his varied graphic series stamped on paper.

Antoni Miró has been and is still affected by the turmoil of human and antihuman events provoked by the human being, aroused by every glimpse of injustice, discrimination, violence and pain. He has devoted his life —and still keeps on it— to expressing his own forcefulness to the best of his ability: his plastic images.

Images that, notwithstanding what we have said above and written elsewhere in other essays about his work, refer to bulk topics, motives, concerns —feelings and sayings, loves and defeats— of a diverse and plural outcome. Several stages could be annotated for his work: first, expression and anxiety; second, strength and accusation; and third, full suavity in achieving his iconographic formula but showing a shade of denunciation none the less cutting. Sheltered by one plus one thousand turning points where sarcasm, irony and caricature have been caressing a many hued typology, and at any rate without leaving out his diction for plastic aesthetics, his field is transformed and led into aesthetic experience for the spectator, who approaches his work, culls his language and keeps for himself the underlying message to finally enjoy shapes and colours, compositions and happenings.

It is difficult or so may it seem, to start talking about aesthetics when Miró’s work is plagued with messages. But it is well known that aesthetics, whether you choose heads or tails to approach it -poiesis- or to experience it -reception- and whatever the aesthetic category of value -aesthetic judgment- cannot absolutely do without creativity, nor be away from that special series of developments and objectivities —perhaps falsely asserted as forever (objectum) or rather for an instant the more or the less ephemeral (actum)— which are intentionally displayed and purported to lend sense to the so called Artis Factum.

Mutatis mutandi, when it comes to developing these projects —artistic and vital— it is necessary a supply of material and technical elements to substantiate the author’s idea, to complete the whole process of achieving his work either by painting, drawing or chiselling and definitely projecting himself out of the very stuff he is handling. Spirituality transubstantiated. Matter is capable —as all beings felt around us— to contact with us and provoke —once become into a special perception, aesthetic perception— the corresponding experience of a like tenor.

Antoni Miró was born in Alcoy and although passionately in love with his native land, his artistic work travels worldwide beyond all frontiers, since its eidetic grasp alludes, refers or encompasses all that concerns the human being, no matter where and how. Painter, sculptor, draftsman, maker of objects, strainer of poetry, or gauger of lyricism, he takes hold of artefacts as well as of natural elements, which set around his home conforms his habitat, too. This artist is not exempt from controversy, like almost anyone dealing with a public is exposed to criticism, like anyone bound to face the uncertainty of publicity, commercialism, and mass media as the correct channels for his work, is to learn that competition does not always fit a perfect assembly. However, our author, through an elongated and not ever easy artistic itinerary, has been able to sort out and consolidate an upstanding and far from eager graphic work. Now it seems that his work is ready for inventory. A catalogue sensu stricto, rather than an exhaustive critical appraisal of his work, for it appears to be more convenient and urgent a file of technical and photographic entries of all and every work —serigraphy, etchings, engravings, lithography, linoleum printings, etc.— produced during the last forty years without forgetting that his creativity has blossomed in other fields of plastic arts already referred to; he is a ceaseless worker of social culture for the land, the place, the country, basically represented by his native town and surroundings.

From 1960, when his unfledged and modest etching “Per oblidar” appeared —transcript, replica, series vision of his painting “El bevedor”—, up to 2000 with the serigraphies on canvas, as “Serena”, “Tornarà”, Miró has built a compounded set of series that somehow becomes a parallel echo or itinerary, though self-assertive, to his pictorial work of ontological uniqueness.

His first series creations: “Per oblidar”, “Meló”, “Fam i tristesa” and some others of the series “La fam” and “Els bojos” (1966-1967) show the iconographic naiveté and draftsman’s simplicity of a beginner, such as happens with his former pictures. Its chromatic sobriety reflects anxiety, melancholy and the heavy burden of life. “Dones i homes”, a series of etchings of mid-sixties, picture crossings of bodily contours on a whitish background —the usual bottom paper of the stamp— a kind of corporal arabesques, whose active sexuality and graphic charm constitute a dynamic composition. This work is considered as his engraved vision of “Les nues”, painting series initiated in 1964.

At the beginning of the seventies the “Amèrica negra” is started under a metal-graphic technique that exhibits the chromatic and gestural power of its figuration in compromise with some awkward holes of society, a striking series that calls for a deeper public conscientiousness. In this series the spartan drafting of the main characters and the irony almost of a sarcastic bent bear a critic-visual witness to some well-determined problems, precisely nurtured by the social and ethnic Northamerican capitalist establishment (something that, as the years go by, is still alive in the European xenophobic manifestations).

On the other hand, the lithographic works, etchings and printings on linoleum, contained in the series “La fam” (denouncer of famine so old and actual in many a country despite of being nowadays at the turn of the century) and those of “L’home avui” (series to enhance a historical period of social change and cultural revolution —partially influenced by the glorious French May— that lets free our consideration for facts and situations related to the human being under an unsteady future in socio-economical and political-cultural fields) are shown to us, also under its lithographic version, in full power: the former, distressing and glowering; the latter, historical and testimonial but nonetheless the harder.

And what to say about the visual impact and contents of the series “El dòlar” —appearing between 1973 and 1980— offered as well in the etching version, where Miró under a domineering presence strengthens the gigantic attributes of this powerful symbol, which, only for remembrance's sake, had so much to do with the usurpation of the democratically elected civil government, overthrown by the pinochetist coup’s of the Chilean military forces.

Obviously, among the processes of mechanic reproduction —after the artisan’s artistic labour of engraving and inking— his creations will reach in this field a grand formal elegance, without obviating the harshness of their contents, with the series “Les llances”. Elegance or fineness, as much for that kind of mullion that comes out of the very same paper —receiver of the stamping— produced in the compositions of the series by means of two plates forming a diptych, as for that densely printed and inked area that looks (in proportion to the whole stain of the engraving) enormous on looming over as a totalling densely massive zone defined by given contours —those of the victorious folks and the vanquished ones— and specified by the profiles of the hoisted and bloody lances. In other works —”Almansa 1707”, “Força i raó”— part of the bottom of the white paper is metamorphosed into relevant sign signal (arrow) and symbol (four bars escutcheon), marks and object of the oppression under King Philip V.

On another line, the “Rostres de Freud”, a gray coloured painting (grisaille) happily accomplished on aquatint with nitric acid and resins, the artistic scheme of citations of mid-eighties so much renowned in his pictures of the series “Pinteu pintura” (where all evocations, picassian, cubists’s, Durero’s, Miró’s, Magritte’s.... were called for by the unfailing gaze of this researcher of past things —facts, situations, intentions— that is Toni Miró and which he is still re-using nowadays, as their essence is imperishable) constitute a further success for his engravings.

More recently, during the last decade of fin-de-siècle, “Vivace” and the “Suite Eròtica”, both in unison, allow Miró to develop a feverish chalcographic work where colour reaches an outstanding role. If the series “Pinteu pintura” together with that of “El dòlar” result into the longest and more insistent segments of his plastic career, we must say that with “Vivace” (since 1991 up to this moment) we are facing one of his more productive periods as well. Formerly, it was the social interaction of the human being what worried Miró, now it is nature in its interaction with the human presence which pricks him up. Though on second thoughts all could be the same but seen from each end of the puzzle, as taken from granted that man is capable of attacking, harassing and subjugating his coequals throughout history, would it not be so different with the ill-usage of nature’s resources? In doing that are we not shortening the life of other men and women: both for underdeveloped countries by exploiting away their staples and for developed countries by leaving no resources for future mankind? In the same way that nature’s resources must be well administered —and here comes the innermost part of the series— the natural human relation must also be well cared for amongst all mankind. This is why Miró in a rush of optimism and healthy humour is dedicated to produce a series of engravings where eroticism sprouts with all the pageantry of splendour and rejoicing, likewise he is bearing witness of his irony, playfulness, sympathy and even a shade of denunciation —implicit— and shown in his bicycles: machines in the shape of a bull or of a roaming animal, the long forgotten bicycle of the grindstone monger or the umbrellas’ mender’s (old jobs, itinerant and longed for by an expectant neighbourhood, that occasionally visited squares and streets in a near past, full of kind and nostalgic sequences not exempt from a humbling penury.

With the “Suite eròtica”, the patina of time retrieves an unusual strength (the ancient colouring of Greek vessels and vases is recovered) when printed in to-day’s new fangled modernity (actual time), depicting in his engraved figures —of defined contours and profiles, of magic and amalgamating strokes, reddish and smoke-black with a speck of crimson and yellow colours— fragmentary scenes of overflowing sexuality, on which Miró regales himself. In their temporary evocation, the “Suite eròtica” stamps enjoy peacefulness, everlasting, almost Parmenides-like, of figured dynamic arabesques, almost Eleraclitus-like, in the over spilling plurality of philandering techniques and postures shown in the images. Against cheap and vulgar pornography (not to be mistaken for the beautiful and lustful images, moist and poignant, shining and exuberant) that today gripes us through so many poor and short-winged TV programs (that, paradoxically, show no lucky nude or entwined passionate lovers but some loathing pseudo-social ideas) the retaken archaic smartness of the compositions of Miró’s “Suite erotica” will be reconfirmed. Underlined as well —leaving out this theme and entering another even as much deplorable— by skylines and thick bluish bulks of contaminated seas and burnt-out forests, distinctive of his series “Vivace” in its topmost aspect or vision of critic ecology.

Later, between 1996 And 1997, eroticism and sex scenes of his stamps with densely chromatic patinas and agile skylines, that aquatint and etching have left printed on the “Suite erotica” of Greek revisitation, revert into more actual ways of execution —without garments nor veils, without colossal phallus or wide open legs— following a scale of chromaticisms and characteristics nearer to the serigraphic execution, such as we can check up in “L’Amor”; though, Miró nevertheless, did not leave untilled the cast retained in the single-coloured chalcographic engraving, as confirmed by “Nit d‘amor” or “Així”.

Finally, we must say that Antoni Miró, researcher of every new technique that might be added up to his artistic plying, has wanted to test and conclude a work that, from one side, is got by means of mechanic processes and, from another, remains fixed to an only piece or of 1/1 issue. After travelling several times to a Caribbean country of compact history and amiable reminiscence, of colourful, friendly and deep human soul, he has executed in this year 2000 his recent “hexachromies and acribes” on canvas to stress his enthusiasm for Cuba.

Perhaps this last production cannot be considered as very orthodox under current patterns. An engraved of stamped work offers per se the possibility of being easily reproduced in as many copies as required —taken for granted that a quantity of pieces, a serial number and an author’s signature will be established beforehand so as to comply with a limited demand but certainly larger than if restricted to a single piece. By means of this system, as is well known, a double goal is reached: on one side to socialise and expand the artistic work; on the other, to avoid the golden sacredness of uniqueness of the one single piece. In other words, the value of the unique comes behind that of the multiple, though a priori fixed and controlled. Nevertheless, we must not forget, as the author said more than once, that for him both techniques are valid; Miró does not contemplate that graphic work is without appeal for those who cannot come by paintings but both —engravings and paintings— are equally valuable of themselves.

But as I am saying, up to now and at this very instant of his career’s last stage through the pathways of the graphic work, Antoni Miró executes a unique work but using somehow systems and recourses more properly appertaining to engraved graphics. But thus Miró —unexpected or unexpectedly unexpected— does not like the risk of hazard, indeed. All testing is not enough for him, he does not mind the purists’ critique, but that his overflowing creativity, his indefatigable activity and his proved versatility may not fail him, these must march forward. Following the title of Walter Benjamin’s book, 1968, La obra de arte en la era de la reproducción mecánica, both work of art and mechanic reproduction are under Antoni Miró’s scope all the time. Fie adores the unique but does not forget to promote the multiple with same love and dedication and even dares to join uniqueness aura together with some processes o f reproduction as of natural. This is our artist, this is Antoni Miró.