Joan Miró: “The Creative Impulse” Exhibition

Let’s face reality: your child does not draw like a conceptual artist or an abstract painter. Usually it’s the other way round: artists can replicate the childlike way of drawing. I say this because I was recently visiting a non-figurative exhibition and I heard the same old comment from a parent, pronounced with a dismissive tone: “My son paints like this.” In this case, “like this” means the Barcelona-born painter and sculptor Joan Miró.

It’s no secret that the main challenge with art is its intelligibility, and people tend to reject what they don’t (fully) understand. This is even truer for contemporary art, which requires an extra dose of study to grasp its meaning. You need to research. You have to do your homework, or you’re going to dismiss abstract pictorial signs as if they were a child’s doodle, just because you don’t “get” them.

"Untitled", 1973-1978. Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró. © Successione Miró by SIAE 2014.

“Untitled”, 1973-1978. Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró. © Successione Miró by SIAE 2014.

Last week I was back in Italy for the Christmas break and I took advantage of a day off in Mantua too see the exhibition “Miró. L’impulso creativo” (Miró. The creative impulse) hosted at the Fruttiere of the Palazzo Te and curated by Elvira Cámara López for Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró. It’s a show so accessible that it does not allow its audience “not to get it”. I would say that it’s a sort of “Miró for dummies”, but I don’t want it to sound like a bad thing. Actually, the plus of the exhibition is indeed its easy readability.

The 53 artworks displayed, which include paintings, sculptures and drawings, span the whole career of the Catalan artist. The exhibition offers a behind-the-scene look at Miró’s work in the studio and at his imaginative process. perfectly framed by an old short interview with BBC screened during the itinerary.

"Project for a monument", 1972. 51 x 38,5 x 25 cm. © Successione Miró by SIAE 2014.

“Project for a monument”, 1972. 51 x 38,5 x 25 cm. © Successione Miró by SIAE 2014.

Five thematic areas cover the gesture and graphics; the expressive power of black; the importance of simplicity; a closer look at how Miró treated the backgrounds and at the different materials he used, with a specific focus on the reconstruction of the Sert and Son Boter studios. His iconography, made of motifs such as women, birds, stars and heads stares at the visitor, with his signature use of primary colours enhanced by strong black lines and dripping. He was a Mediterranean soul looking at American Abstract expressionism and Japanese ideograms.

The intelligibility of his work was of concern for Miró too, as his own words reproduced on the walls point out: “I’d like to explain to anyone who looks at my works why they are as they are, why one day I decided to grasp hold of the secret life of things, and how, bit by bit, I got rid of all the external realities to reach the Sign, which is an Ideogram.”

Atelier Sert. Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró. © Successione Miró by SIAE 2014. Photo: © Joan Ramón Bonet & David Bonet.

Atelier Sert. Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró. © Successione Miró by SIAE 2014. Photo: © Joan Ramón Bonet & David Bonet.

Painted using brushes, brooms or bare hands, his works evoke extreme freedom as well as unleashed creativity, captured on any sort of material and framework. Again in his words: “I make use of everything: if I receive a parcel, I keep the wrapping paper; other times, if they send me a lovely card from Japan, I use that too…”

The show at Palazzo Te is on until 6 April 2015. Personal tip: unless you’re well acquainted with abstract art and Surrealism, get the audio guide.

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“Don’t Feed Mogwais After Midnight” Is Still the Best Advice for Christmas

It’s Christmas week and everyone has already ranked their own favourite films to watch during the festive break. Those nostalgic for 1990s comedies for the whole family will probably play Home Alone over and over again; action lovers will opt for Die Hard; fantasy animation enthusiasts will go for The Nightmare Before Christmas; while fans of the politically incorrect will have a blast with Bad Santa-like pictures.

Poster for "Bad Santa"

As I’m back home spending a few days with family and friends, I’ve just checked the Italian TV guide for this week and felt reassured because I’ve found the same movies that have been regularly played over the past years during the Christmas break. John Landis’ Trading Places will be screened on television on the 24th December, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on the 25th, Ghostbusters II the following day. We can easily say that they are all Christmas classics now (at least in Italy).

Poster for "Ghostbusters 2"

If you don’t have any ideas yet, choosing festive films is quite easy: it’s only a matter of taking sides. Do you share Frank Capra’s idealism? Then go for It’s A Wonderful Life kind of movies. Are you in search of a nastier mood instead, something capable of unleashing the evil spirit that lurks beneath these days? In this case you should definitely watch the 1984 classic Gremlins again.

Joe Dante’s black comedy about a mythical creature called “Mogwai” that can generate mischievous alter egos if its owner does not take care of it properly is still one of the most inspired horror movies of the 1980s. Disguised as a twisted fairy tale, it’s a film infused with dark humour that manages to criticise the revelry, the consumerism, and the irritating and patently fake “do-good attitude” reigning over Christmas, without giving up the enchantment of the festivity and flooding the market with merchandise at the same time. A perfect crime.

Poster for "Gremlins"

Whether you side with the cute Gizmo or the reptilian gremlins, you need to be aware of the rules listed in the minimal poster below. They’re simple: don’t expose a Mogwai to bright light; don’t get it wet; don’t feed it after midnight. Follow these and you’ll have a safe Christmas. Break them and you might not make it to St. Stephen’s Day alive.

Minimal poster for "Gremlins" by Quim Marbet

Let’s Bring the “Gialli” Back. Davide Melini on his Short “Deep Shock” (Part 2)

After discussing how director Davide Melini started his career, let’s delve into his new short, Deep Shock. Produced by Fabel Aguilera and Melini himself, it is supported by the most important institutions of Malaga, such as the “Diputación de Málaga”, the “Ayuntamiento de Málaga” and the “Málaga Film Office”. According to the official synopsis, the story revolves around Sarah Taylor, a young woman played by the Spanish actress Laura Toledo, who can’t completely overcome the deaths of her grandfather and her older sister. The trauma and lack of sleep cause her to embark on a strange journey of apparitions and murders, apparently caused by her mind…

Prominent Monkey: “Gialli” are among the most internationally known Italian films and Deep Shock, the project you are currently crowdfunding, pays homage to some masters from that era. Why do you think that “Gialli” are still relevant nowadays?

Davide Melini: This genre has gradually disappeared but is still very popular. With Deep Shock I pay tribute to the “giallo” as in 2014 its 50th anniversary took place in 2014. The title itself is inspired by the most famous horror movies of two of the most important transalpine directors: Dario Argento (Deep Red) and Mario Bava (Shock). My goal is to recreate that magic and bring back some of the genre’s signature oppositions: rational vs. irrational, thriller vs. horror, life vs. death.

Promotional poster for "Deep Shock".

Promotional poster for “Deep Shock”.

P. M.: There are several platforms for crowdfunding audiovisual projects out there: why did you choose Indiegogo and the “fixed funding” option, instead of “flexible funding”?

D.M.: We analysed many crowdfunding platforms and considered Indiegogo the best choice for our needs. We chose the “fixed funding” in order to protect potential backers who don’t know us: if the film does not reach the goal, the money will be returned to the backers.

Lobby Card featuring Laura Toledo.

Several versions of this lobby card featuring the actors are among the perks.

P. M.: Dario Argento has recently completed the crowdfunding campaign for his next movie, The Sandman, on the same platform. What is your position on the debate about whether experienced directors with a track record should use crowdfunding or not? Are they taking away attention from newcomers in a space that is more suitable for the latter?

D.M.: I’ve heard many criticisms on this issue. Crowdfunding platforms are there to be used by everyone: each one of us just tries to promote their own cause.

Actress Laura Toledo plays Sarah Taylor.

Actress Laura Toledo plays Sarah Taylor.

P. M.: A few years ago you worked on the set with Argento, as you were one of the assistant directors for his film Mother of Tears: The Third Mother. Would you like to share some memories about this experience?

D.M.: Being on set with the master of Italian horror films was an honour. You just have to keep quiet and observe how Dario directs a movie. There is so much to learn! It was also a very nice experience, because I had the opportunity to get to know his daughter Asia. I clearly remember when we were in Rome, near the “Mouth of Truth” (“Bocca della Verità”), to shoot a scene in which a man had to smash a car using a baseball bat. As soon as we started to film I was approached by a Chinese guy in shock. He was watching what was going on and asked me incredulously: “Why?” I was almost laughing but he was really concerned. Of course, I explained him that it was just a movie, but it was such a funny moment.