Antoni Miró “Interior Voyage” (Untitled Series)
Josep Lluís Peris Gomez
Showing the skin of an unmentionable reality through painting.
“The victory of linguistics (of the image) has happened at the precise moment in which information developed as power and imposed its own image of language and mind through the transmission of watchwords and the organization of redundancies.”
Gilles Deleuze/Claire Parnet, “Dialogues"
In the same way as fragments of an unembraceable and complex skin of realities, the broken-up canvas or the paintings, reflecting those same pieces of the immense and unmentionable skin of present-day realities, through the surprising and incisive view of Antoni Miró, the artist from Alcoi. Because the new pictorial series of the well-known and versatile plastic artist Antoni Miró finds its way completely in a new treatment of pictorial images, through which the thick canvas shows the granular warp and the irregularity of the painting and of the brush, after a digitalized process of these same images. The canvas in this way becomes the medium and the support of a suggestive way of looking at the same reality that mass-media offers us abusively through ambiguous and uncontextualized visions that almost never contribute an equidistant approach to the complexity of any reality that is being shown.
There are thirty-five works in this collection under the epigraph “Interior voyage”, all of them thought out and prepared by the painter so as to begin a new plastic phase in which to experiment with some technical innovations, thick canvas support and digital treatment, before the images are painted mostly in acrylic. There are thirty-five compositions of medium-sized format that are specific and fragmented chronicles of the same disturbing vision of the current situation, described by the author’s apparently innocent or impartial point of view, if it were not for the subtlety of a narrative implicit in the particular details of each picture. A thread by way of ironic discourse goes through the full collection of his work where the concrete narration of real events is warped with paradoxical visual elements full of sarcasm, unplanned games or calculated ambiguities. The reality that is shown is reinterpreted by the travelling painter, by the investigating painter or by the painter as recipient of images in a labyrinth looking-glass of iconic multireferencialities.
This time the artist changes into traveller or tourist investigating the urban environment, he takes walks on specific streets, in inhabited architectures and he himself turns into an inhabitant of singular corners, avenues, monuments... (Tourist photograph of the artist, group self-portrait...) and he becomes protagonist in the middle of multitudes that pass through train stations, airports or neighbourhoods in the cities where he travels (Europe, Cuba, New York, Chile, Morocco, Eastern-Bloc countries...). Being an errant observer lets the artist ironically compare the experience of his present-day visual snapshots with the ones that the mass media serve us in a stereotypical and almost emblematical way, with messages that are full of tricks. Does the artist propose to nourish himself with day-to-day happenings, to drink directly from the most immediate and most visible occurrences, to distance himself and mistrust the symbol-images of the information-disinformation society? This is where the artist in part distances himself from the thematic approach and from the more aesthetic and idealizing focus he used in his earlier “Vivace” series, where ecosocial approaches dominated the greater part of his compositions centered on landscape, the animal world and the totemic and devastating presence of earth-moving machines.
After having experienced reality as a surprising live organ, complex and full of ecosocial and ecomaterial interrelationships in the “Vivace” series, Antoni Miró penetrates the apparent simplicity of everyday and real images that today’s urban world offers us, no matter in which city, street or inhabited architectural fragment, but only when pulsating life appears. Miró’s artist’s gaze has let itself be drawn by the intuitive force that curiosity receptive to the immediate environment that is the city, any city -be it known by experience or through stereotypical mass-media images- but always that same urban scenario where life pulsates, where specific stories, even though hidden and surprising, develop.
Antoni Miró understands that naked reality -apparently silent or without showing evident enigmas that explain it- is the one that, truly, surprises the visitor and it is thus that it should be shown, because it is suggested as being much more rich and powerful than if it is filtered through conventional and pre-conceived ideas. Reality and a scanning gaze without any kind of discursive or pictorial artifice, a clairvoyant meeting of signs that give us the keys to culture, to our surroundings, to the puzzle of historical or present times, an imaginary or real voyage through the conflicts that devastatingly explode, that perturb and worry us, even if we always look in other directions or toward other informative points of interest that are less uncomfortable... walk, voyage or itinerary of images that the painter uses to communicate an individual experience, but also a collective one, and that the spectator is able to empathize or, at least, to enrich with his own experience as an observer.
“Interior Voyage”. Through an itinerary of snapshots or fragments of reality
Interior voyage from an itinerary that is apparently sequenced in epidemic snapshots, in fingerprints or footprints of radically exterior realities, visible to the eyes of any spectator but that the artist is capable of making present at the same time as he infers another iconographic sense from it, another meaning that goes from the post-modern allegory to the most devastating irony or even to cynical symbolism.
The new “Untitled” series of which this “Interior Voyage” collection is a part is being presented by the author for the first time. It stems from the previous “Vivace” one, as it maintains plastic and thematic elements from the ecosocial universe, as well as from the figurative poetic that characterized the earlier pictorial approximation to the world of ecology and its intrinsical relationship to landscape, nature and objects. On the other hand, the artist is now undertaking the principles of reality that inspire each work from other programmatic and visual perspectives, as a fragmented, disseminated and apparently unconnected whole that searches for the observer’s interpretative complicity. The painter confronts his own visual poetic -that also helps itself to images from the mass-media- with the experiential and redefining possibilities of images and their ethic and aesthetic impact on the alphabetized eyes of the spectator.
Besides the new composite parameters and a more elaborate use of techniques to recreate the images from advertisements, television and internet, Antoni Miró is able to interiorize a concrete and real world that surrounds us and of which we are part. Affairs that are most fiercely present through armed conflicts, multiculturalism, disproportionately repressive politics, the asymmetry between the First and the Third world... latent injustice in different social scenarios beside images of relevant cultural or political personalities transformed into symbols, allegories or ideological lures. It all appears, indistinctively, collected into each fragment or skin of reality that the painter has been able to transfer -from his aesthetical and questioning look at the world- to the fabric or canvas that turns into contemporary image, plastic transfer or pictorial window to the obstinate reality that has been invented and given new meaning by the mediatic power that controls the universe of images.
A more personal and more rigorously specific focus begins to define the theme of each picture, the singular and totally identifiable experience that the author has felt in each situation of aesthetic clairvoyance or emotional impact is transferred to the canvas and traps each fleeting moment or affective encounter with the objects, persons or incidents and re-made in a primigenial and pictorial process so as to be able to weave the visual and communicative discourse that is expressed in each picture. In this way the painter does not show the painting of a model or stereotypical bicycle (as he did before in the “Vivace" series), he now paints that exact bicycle tied to a specific traffic signal on that street- “Via Appia, 2002,116x81”- of that well known city of Rome.
The artist no longer needs to define an object or a powerful figure using a true-to-life or realistic technique (in Vivace wild animals, bulldozers or places desolated by garbage), in this new series he traps, elaborates and reinvents each real image with its own story, each image appears totally contextualized in its own surroundings, with name and identity. If the author has decided to bestow “Untitled” as a title for this new pictorial phase, he has done it precisely to underline the contrast in the unequivocal concreteness and identification of each image in each picture, since in each work there is a real instantaneous narrative, more or less visible or hidden, full of meaning and with a clear communicative intention.
There is no need for a title in this collection of paintings or “photo album”, hand painted, that Antoni Miró has so delicately put together, because it is an intimate -but also transferable-approximation to the enigmatic and disappointing human condition. The painter has attempted to tell us a few real stories that we witness, surprised or indifferent, every day in front of the powerful machines that vomit images and that decide the general state of public opinion, and he has done it conscious of the communicative possibilities of these same images when lacking in the technological support of the audiovisual media. These concrete histories that have been transported from computer or television screens to the more tranquil and reflective sphere of painting and exhibition halls have a different bearing upon the conscience of the spectator, the interpretation and comprension possibilities of the phenomenon shown can become more effective and be less alienating. Antoni Miró shows them to us with a fine irony as he mixes the exterior voyage (the artist behaving as a tourist that photographs and paints people and conflicts - “Mala carrera”, 2002.116x81, “Rambla, Canaletes”, 2002. 95x65), with the interior voyage (artist that expresses himself as he paints real objects loaded with mystery or poetry- “Via Appia”, 2002, 116x81, “Cap a la dreta”, 2002, 81x65).
There are paintings where the artist evoques his emotional experience, the surprise of a shocking image, the singularity of an objet trouvé in the manner of Duchamp, and in this kind of picture, he achieves a type of pictorial compositions that approaches the aesthetic universe of Joan Brossa’s visual poetry: he introduces brief but blunt plays on words, on concepts and on plastic visions that help the observer to become an accomplice in a mental act, the author’s, completely playful and open to multiple interpretations, all of them possible and correct. The author generates a space that is shared with the spectator where irony and witticism occupy a central plane of meaning and sense, as in works like: “Excava-mala”, 2002, 92x65, “Gata negra”, 2002, 81x116 o “Tele-censura”, 2002, 50x65. In all of these pieces the author summons the observer to read a message that is open to different contexts, re-formulated always from the concrete experience and from the critical sprit of the potential spectator. Irony and sarcasm are present in all, in contrast to the thematic gravity of the rest of the images where conflicts or devastation are reflected.
The artist’s apparent external voyage, shown through images of social realities that are fully urban and contemporary, shows the paradox of a civilized world that sinks under the irrational praxis of war, consequence of the greed and prepotency of the more advanced societies represented by the logic of power and arms. Civil society as a victim, children, older persons, innocents in sum, victims of the machinery of war and devastation acquire in the paintings of this series a leading and relevant role (“Afgana i xiquet”, 2002, 116x81). Emblematic images like “Manhattan crack”, 2002, 116x116, where the bumpy texture of the background is even more evident, indicate the fragility and vulnerability of this socio-economic system that neo-liberalism has turned out to be, fierce and without nuances, and that is the main cause of every kind of political conflicts and programmed injustices. Reality as it is shown by Antoni Miró may surpass fictional narratives based on the human condition, and this is why the images built through his painting acquire that special impact that television or cinema are able to hide, alter and manipulate as they incorporate diversion techniques used by political propaganda or advertising.
The skin of unmentionable reality is broken into images that tell us the story of the misfortune and powerlessness of concrete women and men that suffer injustice, poverty, destruction or abuse of power (“Intolerància”, 2002, 116x116), and also of the scenarios of those unfortunate events, of the petulant and arrogant works of the dominant cultures evident in great monuments (“Columnata a boquetanit”, 2002, 116x81), of never solved conflicts (“Palestins presoners”, 2002, 65x81), of the innocence of the victims (“Manhattan people”, 2002,116x116). Finally, that imperceptibly rough skin of visible realities and hidden and anonymous heroics, but real and concrete, is what the artist proposes as plastic testimony through his technique and from his gaze, full of irony and sagacity. And this is how the voyage to the interior that the author proposes has to do with the reflective and discovery experience that the same artist has been making in his peculiar creative process, and at the same time in the individual process and attitude that he has been internalizing throughout the experience of the voyage.
But one should also highlight that this introspective movement comes from his receptive and critical predisposition towards the avalanche of images of desolation and injustice that come to him -as to any citizen- through the mass media. The sensibility and courage that emerge from the indignation and fury towards the impotence that many of the citizens of these days feel against the barbarism and the abuse of political and economic power are at the base of that shared introspective movement or interior voyage that forces one towards testimony and civilized but forceful and denounceful action, and it is just this kind of perception of shared and solidary reality that explains the subjacent discourse to be found in the poetic and in the plastic that spring from the hands of the painter Antoni Miró in this surprising and suggestive new phase.