Joan Miro: Celebrating the ordinary at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is currently holding the first major UK survey of sculpture by Joan Miró (1893-1983), the iconic Catalan artist, perhaps better known for his paintings than his sculpture.

Showing in the Underground Gallery and the surrounding gardens the exhibition provides an extensive chronology of his sculptures, alongside some of his instantly-recognisable paintings.

Yesterday, with Blog North colleagues, I had the pleasure of viewing the exhibition for the second time. The first time, I left with simple but powerful impressions of the works I had seen – some were curved, smooth, sensuous and bold; others more intricate with forms made of seemingly random objects like shoes, lampstands and dolls arms.

This time around I had chance to look at some sculptures in more depth, and discover how they were created. Miro was a scavenger extraordinaire. As his friend Jacques Dupin said

It all begins with an unprecedented harvesting. Miro slips out of his studio like a shadow and comes back laden down like a pack-horse. Laden with all sorts of things – valueless, obsolete, but capable in his eyes of unexpected associations and metamorphoses. With everything that man or nature has abandoned, forgotten, rejected…

The inspiration for this sculpture Personnage (1970) was an almond atop a pebble. Starting from these two simple items, he scaled up the work several times, adding features to make it look more like a figure.

In Personnage Gothique, Oiseau Eclair (1976) he scaled up a donkey’s yoke typical in Majorca where he then lived with a hat box on top to create this colossus bestriding the YSP.

As Jacques Dupin says

This is the raw material he delights in, this refuse which is nothing, almost nothing, nothing yet. And everything will take place between the ‘almost nothing’ and ‘nothing yet.

If you’re as intrigued as I was by the objects that inspired his sculptures and the processes he used to make them, the final gallery contains some of the original “raw material” as well as films about his work.

This is an exhibition that demands and repays multiple visits, not just to spend more time with the sculptures themselves but also to see how the sculptures interact with the seasonally-changing landscape of the YSP.

The Joan Miro exhibition continues at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park Wakefield, until 6 January 2013.

Quotes from Jacques Dupin ‘Miro as Sculptor’ first published in French in Joan Miro Das Plastiche Werk, Zurich Kunsthaus 1972. Joan Miró, Personnage Gothique, Oiseau Eclair, 1976 © Successió Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012. Photo Jonty Wilde. Joan Miró, Personnage Gothique, Oiseau Eclair, 1976 © Successió Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012. Photo Jonty Wilde

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