By this point of the year, Hannah and I were pretty much writing the arts page ourselves. It was good experience but we were struggling to come up with things after a while, but this artist came upon me like God to the Virgin Mary, while I was on a little holiday with my Grand-mama. This was published in the Pebble, May 2009.
Need to Know – Joaquim Mir
Everyone loves an Impressionist. There is something intensely calming about fluid colours, oozing viscosity and light. But these artists are just too god damn popular. So when you stumble upon someone no-one has ever heard of (there isn’t even a Wikipedia page for this month’s artist) you have to share the love.
On a jaunt to Barcelona, I stumbled upon a retrospective of Catalan artist Joaquim Mir (1873 – 1940), in the fantastic independent gallery Caixa Forum. They have three (sometimes four) exhibitions on at anytime from a range of disciplines; European contempory art, Catalan art, architecture, graphic design… all of which are free. An old Art Nouveau factory, it is located opposite the entrance to Mountjuic (at the bottom of the huge double staircase) and is well worth a visit.
Back to the artist at hand, Mir trained as a realist artist, initially constructing portraits of local people excluded from increasing industrialisation, meticulously studying the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous unfinished church, dubbed ‘The Cathedral of the Poor’. But when Mir went to live on the Island of Mallorca between 1900 and 1904, he found his own way to represent landscape, beyond realism, impressionism, fauvism… he made all of his own rules. The Enchanted Cove (pictured), displays his fascination with light and colour, so expressively bold it is almost terrifying. Supposedly, Mir’s persona was synonymous with the myth of the bohemian artist who becomes so involved in their work they exhibit a trance-like ritualistic state, so much so he fell off a cliff and almost died. After a spell in a psychiatric hospital, he searches ever more for light in its most naturalistic form, gearing his way towards abstraction. All of this is accumulated in the amazing stained glass piece housed in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya’s (MNAC) permanent modern collection.
Mir’s work is thoroughly engaging and very beautiful, particularly the series produced in Mallorca. You can really see why he became fascinated in beautifully portraying the rainbows of aquamarine and cobalt as the crash against the dreamy coastline. In front of these works you become as transfixed as he was, and it’s a beautiful feeling.