When he was making his series of late works that he called ‘burnt and lacerated canvases’, Miró would reinforce the sense of violence by making notes to himself that included comments such as ‘improvise with rage’, underlined in red
Miró saw the productive potential of fire: ‘I love to work with fire. Fire has unforeseeable reactions. It destroys less than it transforms, it acts on what it burns with an inventive force which posesses magic. I wanted to paint with fire and by fire.’ However, he was not doing this in isolation, but in reaction to the political state of Spain at the time. As he noted: ‘The artist does not live in bliss. He is sensitive to the world, to the pulsation of his time, to the events which compel him to act. This is bound to happen. This is not an intellectual attitude but a profound feeling, something like a cry of joy which delivers you from anguish.’
The series of ‘Burnt Canvases’ were first shown at the artist’s retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1974, where two of them were suspended from the ceiling so that the front and back were visible and visitors could look through the painting. We have recreated this room at Tate Modern and this is the first time since then that they are shown again in this arrangement.
Marko Daniel is co-curator of Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape at Tate Modern.