Joan Miro Painting on a White Background 1

Minimal: Joan Miró, ‘Painting on a White Background’, (1968)

© Succession Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2011

Joan Miro Painting on a White Background 2

Joan Miró, Painting on a White Background 1968

© Succession Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2011

Joan Miró, 'Painting on a White Background', (1968)

Joan Miró Painting on a White Background 1968

© Succession Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2011

The lines reveal themselves to be composed of separate strokes building up shorter segments that thicken and thin as the brush is lifted off the surface and returns to it, resembling the sections of a stem of bamboo rather than a single reed.

These three paintings consist of no more than a single thin black line meandering vaguely diagonally across the dry, smudgy white of a canvas primed with acrylic. The lines reveal themselves to be composed of separate strokes building up shorter segments that thicken and thin as the brush is lifted off the surface and returns to it, resembling the sections of a stem of bamboo rather than a single reed.

Miró’s phrase of the hand breathing again comes to mind and is echoed in the viewer’s physical response as one in turn approaches the surface for a closer look or steps back to experience the rhythm of the threefold repetition of the calligraphic sign.

Marko Daniel is co-curator of Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape, at Tate Modern. 

Comments

Margaret Sharrow

Minimalism can be difficult to accept, seeming 'lazy' or 'too easy'. It may be helpful to think of these works by Miró in the context of Zen and Japanese calligraphy; I believe the catalogue mentions Miró's Eastern influences.

For me it was exciting to see these paintings in person rather in reproduction, in the context of the whole exhibition (including the shop!) I wondered if they were meant to be 'read' from left to right, the lines becoming a journey on a graph where left to right represented progressing time, and going up meant progress, or elevation, and going down, the reverse.

But going up close to the paintings (no doubt annoying others in the room by making a better door than a window) I could see that Miro's hand had made the brush travel from right to left - having seen from the video playing in the shop that Miró pressed down on the heel of the brush to make lines. So a pattern of wider blobs and narrower bits at the end of the stroke seemed to show that the lines were made right to left - unless of course he worked on the canvases upside down.

Furthermore, the video told me that Miró was right handed. This means that a line made from right to left would be covered by the hand as it was made, and that the focus would be on where the line was going (normally a right handed person is able to see the line just made, when mark-making from left to right).

All this speculation left me wondering whether we were meant to read the paintings from right to left. Yet the urge for those accustomed to left to right writing is the opposite. Perhaps Miró planned to execute the image 'backwards' to improve his focus. Or perhaps, the idea of left and right is from the point of view of the painting (as in medieval depictions of those at Christ's right, being on the left of the painting).

Perhaps this entire line of thinking is reading too much into the work. But I found it quite engaging at the time.

d.mcardle

malevich "white on white" 1918.yum yum

rauschenberg "white painting" 1951.so so

l.turner

this is not art. how can this be displayed in a gallery. its criminal that this can be put up on a wall and be called something of a genius! it makes me physically angry. now, if i had draw this and tried flogging this to an art dealer they would laugh in my face... but as this is a "miró" it is now a peice of art? no its not. its a line on a canvas. in what way does that show any signs of tallent. yes he is a tallented artist but this shows no real sign of tallent in my view. "miró" is a brand, its like abercrombie and fitch. the shirt is worth absolutely nothing without the name attatched.