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Nus i nues

Josep Sou

“...everything passes, only robust art is eternal”
Théophile Gautier

The nakedness of the body; revisited art where beauty embraces, with no strategies that distort one’s own will, the magic of a candid offering. There where the skin tightens the rope of mystery lies the exercise of desire, sometimes turned into pleasure, with no objections or ancestral prejudices. And the power of culture is showcased over the foam of an intense sea of traditions and legends: nymphs, fairies and mermaids, unknotting an invisible rope to travel from the other side of knowledge. Greece, praised in so many songs, twists in thousands of complicities to embellish the indescribable face of life: the body is life when all its fluids permeate, without nostalgia, the apocalypse of pleasure. Rome, so cultured and intense, from the power of iron to the sword of dominance, empties the pitcher of that love recently harvested from a bed of passionate caresses in open reciprocity. And the ships, sailing across the sea, suggest the impulse to reach their destination, across the walls of need. And the foam, as it rises from the ocean and splashes our faces, fires up the rewarding hope of adventure with scents and salt.

Painter Antoni Miró, in the depths of his inalterable mirrors and in the intimate lucidity of his creative discourse, encourages us today, as he has always done, to enjoy the delicate contact of experience. And the bodies, now naked, candid in the reverberation of the sleepless night, offer all the powers identified by interest. Some sort of nocturnal chaos where joy and tears coexist in the dark, among the troubled branches wet with a fragile dew. It is love; even more, it is life. It is the versatile identity of the firm bodies to redeem themselves in moments brimming with distant pleasure. But now, too, offering the bright ember of its beautiful chores. It is love, it is the harmonious touch, turned into a special circumstance and encouraging a future rife with uncertainty, but in which we will need to give and receive affection. Or it might be the fragile contact of the beauty underlying the guiding principle of clear and luminous observation: “it is not beauty that inspires the deepest passion. Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait. Beauty, without expression, tires,” Ralph W. Emerson knowingly states, when he sets the limits of beauty, discussing the categories that certainly inspire the special quality of the beautiful, and therefore inclined to the intimate truth of an austere principle.

Do we own beauty? Are we able to acknowledge the benefits derived from it? Surely these arguments could be challenged, depending on what we think. Beauty could be the driving force compelling Antoni Miró to dig in the mud where the raw material is found. Painting, now, forays into the realms of sculpture, elevating the restless marble that lulls the gift of the fervent, natural, warm and, all in all, surprising body. Numberless positions make up the chorus singing in voices arrived from the infinity of Hellenic tradition. Smoothing the earth, burning the clay and caressing the face, all at once, for the sheer desire for adventure. Antoni Miró’s painting is now an adventure.

Could dreaming now be an adventure as well? Dreaming and the trance it makes us enter. The magic of colours fizzing in the alchemist’s mortar, with the unexpected browns for the joyful interpretation of the flesh offering itself – formidable, vaporous, woven with caresses. Bodies we glimpse through the crack of a happy vision, laughing, burning with voluptuous desire. No glance is changed for the sake of malicious melancholy. The intentions are precise and instinctive, inspired by the will to reach freedom, unwaveringly true to those cherished days, when impertinent and miserable traps were nowhere to be found. Bodies as an ode to freedom, and paintbrushes that shy away from the wealth of bodily nuances, like a thoroughly earned salary, when they illustrate the virginal fantasy of remote pleasure, such are its depth and our fondness for it: “Nothing is more your own than your dreams!”, Nietzsche claims when he, and very rightfully so, argues that the effectiveness of the intimate thought lies in the intangible wonder of a hazardous and discontinuous dream. The logic of thinking, and of the virtue that comes along with it. Or maybe a mystery, ultimately full of eloquence.

And the bodies, female and male, to savour life. They could be a huge paradox, or perhaps organic matter could be indispensable to their primary function, close to feeling. All nerves on edge, the whole biological paradigm used to damage the capricious, almost ignorant intimacy of its potential. And pleasure is now a powerful smile, a set of canvases fuelling the primal passion that inspires life. It would be mean not to acknowledge it. Or it might be a pity not to take part in the conquest of joy. Also, now, the supreme guarantee of freedom. And why? What for? Well, this happens because we discreetly feel the urge to perpetuate ourselves. And painting, now almost sculpture, as we look through the luminous window of art in complicity with the future, provides a good opportunity to ensure our days remain valid. We would fail if we left this visit, offered by the artist’s creativity at the time of building, why not, the epic of life; the crucial addition, with no objections, of human understanding: “Everything that lives, resists,” Georges Clemenceau would say in our favour. Such is the case of art. Or of the painting we are discussing here: Antoni Miró’s Nus i Nues. The gaze expands, and so does the passion for existence. Or even, as Malcolm Forbes would put it, “When you cease to dream, you cease to live,” encouraging us to seize the moment: “collige, virgo, rosas,” Ausonius would rightly say.

Love, life, passion and desire, with the fundamental aura of art that channels and encompasses everything. The amount of each ingredient is subordinated to the imperative of the artist’s creativity. Antoni Miró sculpts the bodies, illustrates them with the intelligent patina of his gaze; he brings them to life at a precise instant of grace, and then everything enters the maternal cloister of contemplation. Harmony is also the talent that inspires the contact with the reality of the flesh that dances to make itself present. We see the fertility of the immensity contained in the warmth of the friendly fibre; moreover, the sensual flow is free from inhibitions, thus laying emotions bare. This also lives in Antoni Miró’s paintings. The will to emancipate threads of sensual existence, just as the elusive eyes cast their spell at the peak of the dense hours of the night. The participation of the rewarding supplies of sensual drive, the pulsation of the tasty fruits of night-time aroused by desire: “However, if you wish, you may lock up your lips / so long as you let me be a sharer in your love,”1 Catullus points out, aware of the infinite reach of the voluptuousness of love.

Bodies, sex, burning erotic sensuality, like Athenian warriors ready to engage in the great battle, where the sun will melt swords and cuirasses. A hurt Iliad with winged feet flies over the metaphor to incorporate the grace of the pictorial discourse. And in the dark we see, from the side, men with their proud members, competing against architectural orders. And painting sings, like a poet, and the words of rhapsodists in the public arena. Spaces for otherness, for reasons and fantasy. Desires are now free. And the up-and-down movement of a pair of huge breasts challenges rationality in the enthusiasm of a game intended for pleasure.

Members that are heroes arrived from poetry. Substance of our time, and of times past. Painting sings, like music, in the memory of the whisper of the universe. Art, in Antoni Miró’s painting, attracts our attention, homonymous with a perennial enthusiasm from the arcadia of colours. Everything adds something, because everything gets involved in healing the wounds of inconsistent concern. Painting is like an old echo that lives on to remedy the dissatisfaction of oblivion. Antoni Miró buys time as if he were about to die – every picture is a world, and with all the worlds in his hands he creates a truly substantial universe: shapes, essential ideas, substrates of experience, communicative vigour, a primal will to embrace the mysteries of life, everything is in harmony in the spaces of his prodigious imagination. Using memory, Antoni Miró builds bridges that act as meeting points on the plains of culture. As Hölderlin would say, “How often I longed to see you in the light, / O heroes and poets of ancient times!,”2 in reference to how we need memory to create the buildings of wisdom and knowledge.

And Antoni Miró’s painting, now, is like rain falling on ploughed fields. The depicted bodies reflect the geography of the pictures in order to taste the true turgidity of the cosmic reality of affections, of the love and passion involved. Noble bodies on the shores of desire and profound intimacy. Bodies that come to life, as the artist seeks to enhance contemplation through huge shapes that capture their restless and all-encompassing nature. Naked bodies, like a celebration, like a victory of the senses, like the will to exist in the comedy of everyday life. Bodies transformed by grace when the latter is dissociated from a reality in which metaphors are scarce, as it is representation that conveys the joyful rhythms of an instant of true pleasure. And common things, everyday things, are now a powerful source of audacity, with their dynamic offer of irony and, maybe, of humour. Because the key to these moments of sheer carnality is left hanging from the nails of potential love, of a pair of candid eyes, of unlimited freedom: “Body – of smell and heat, / of fire, of light and of vapour. / Body – to be reduced to ashes, / to be thrown into the solitary unawareness of the self. / You, who can only become aware when burned by fire. / You, who cannot seize the moment that loves you.”3 This poem by Giovanni Giudici captures the intensity of love, the absolute indulgence when we embrace amorous passion, how it makes us shiver; and this is the way we receive it in Antoni Miró’s Nus i Nues.

While in this text we have discussed the power of the emotional expressiveness in the profound substance of the paintings, we would like to highlight other contributions, singular in their sweet, gentle and free interpretation of the classical canon. Maybe the surprising and behavioural nuance of the ultimate protagonists, embracing the paradigms of modernity, illuminates the general scene with the tenderness of comfort. Indeed, contemplation brings to us the cultural wealth from the other side of the Mediterranean, sailing through knowledge, sheltered in the infinity of our history, encouraging us to get involved. Perhaps a saga of vehement, distant passions to say this about love, with effective simplicity: “What a beautiful night, love! / With the perfume of the gentle moon, / we will sail across the perfume / that will leave an aftertaste of mint.”4 These words encapsulate Rosa Leveroni’s interpretation of this flow of tenderness determined by love and its absence.

Antoni Miró’s Nus i Nues gives us the chance to play, through the hands of memory and the rigour of the present, with the mud of the friendly mystery: desire as the driving force of existence.

1. The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus (C. Valerii Catulli Carmina). Translated into English by Francis Warre Cornish, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2014 [first published 1904]. p. 53. Latin text: “uel, si uis, licet obseres palatum, / dum uestri sim particeps amoris”

2. Hölderlin, Odes and Elegies. Translated into English by Nick Hoff, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut 2008, p. 55. German text: “...Wie oft im Lichte dürstet’ ich euch zu sehn, / Ihr Helden und ith Dichter aus alter Zeit!”

3. Giudici, Giovanni, “Corpo.” Translated into English by Felipe Cervantes (University of Alicante Languages Service). Italian text: “Corpo – di odore e calore, / di fuoco, di luce e di vapore. / Corpo – votato alla cenere / e all’incoscienza solitaria di sé. / Tu che per darti non puoi non bruciarti, / Tu che non puoi aggrapparti all’attimo che ti ama.”

4. Leveroni, Rosa. “Absència.” Translated into English by Felipe Cervantes (University of Alicante Languages Service). Catalan text: “Quina nit més bella, amor! / Amb perfum de lluna tendra, / navegarem pel perfum / que tindrà regust de menta.”