MIRO: SCULPTOR at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a major exhibition of Joan Miro’s work- his family have said that it is the most important exhibition of his sculpture that there has ever been, and the first in the UK. It is a perfect complement to last summer’s Miro exhibition at Tate Modern and anyone who has seen both will have been given the perfect introduction to his work if they knew little about him beforehand and if they were already familiar with him they will have had a timely reminder of an inventive and dynamic artist who had a long, productive career and produced a large body of work full of life and humour.
It is good to see a lot of the large works together, normally you would need to travel to Spain so we are very lucky. They are lively and animated and seem to be within shouting distance of each other, able to communicate and strike sparks off each other. None of them are abstract cold forms- they do everything but breathe, even movement is implied in most of them. They really live. I can confidently say what I think about them as Miro made it quite clear that any individual response to his work, whatever it is, was absolutely fine by him. What he made does not have an inner meaning which we need an artists statement to unravel. His pieces make their own statement, smiling out at us and reminding us that being alive is fresh, unique and funny. My favourite piece is Personnage 1970, a delightful character who seems to dance in front of us on his tapered legs, waving his tiny penis with the wide eyed innocence of a child. If I had spent a whole afternoon with him I think we might have become best friends. The largest piece, Personnage Gothique, 1976 has been given a prime site with a background of hills and it accepts the compliment without arrogance, waiting for the parade of watching visitors, perhaps acolytes, perhaps friends, with a still calm confidence. Miro’s paintings and prints can be dark and very moving when he allies this joy and love of life to the suffering and pain which he saw around him, but these large works are just a simple pleasure to look at.
Inside the spaces of the underground gallery there is a fine collection of smaller work which uses found objects and sometimes colour as well as stone to fill the rooms with life. There are some stunning giant prints on the walls alongside them which explode with colour. No wonder his signature always comes with an exclamation mark.This is a joyous, uplifting exhibition which reminds us all, even those who see tragedy and violence around them as Miro himself did when he was young, that life is worth living and something to be celebrated.