Joan Miró – Harlequin’s Carnival (1924-25)
Larger image: Here
The triumph of industry and scientific achievement was pervasive in the modern world. The shift from religious faith to scientific faith found a western world willing and wanting to apply the scientific method to everything. Applied to war, science and industry left Europe nearly destroyed with unseen horrors and millions dead. Looking inward, the science of Psychology was born from Sigmund Freud in Vienna. Here the mind is segmented and notions of the conscious versus the subconscious are suggested. Freud went further to attribute certain behavior as inherent in the subconscious and developed the practice of psychotherapy to, somewhat ambitiously, determine the working of the mind. Freud was famous for his writing on dream interpretation and considered dreams to be very real insights into the subconscious.
In many ways, surrealistic paintings like that of Miró are an exploration of the subconscious or a more generalized theme from the mind’s eye. It can sometimes be hard to determine anything “meaningful” from a surrealist painting and as much can be said of the subconscious. If anything is universally true for dreams, it is that there aren’t anything like being conscious. In one sense, while a dream may hold elements of reality so may it be askew in some way. This inevitably led to bigger philosophical questions about reality and mental life. Overall, there is a willingness to except the mental world as real as anything else. The surrealist painter was now conveying something very real but born of the imagination rather than the perceptible world.
Miró’s Harlequin’s Carnival, conceived of in Paris, comprises very odd constructions of color, shape, and form. Far from the natural landscape, Miro sets his subjects against a stark colored background in an almost cartoon setting. The figures and relationships between figures are nonsensical but distinct. There is a touch of the familiar with musical notation, arrows, a window, a guitar, faces, a ladder, and insects maybe. For all of that, little is in normal context. What I find so interesting is that while I am bewildered with nearly everything I see, I also find my eye to be captivated and entertained by what I’m seeing. The colors are chosen among a few and placed upon the image in such a way to move the eye and balance the composition. Outside of that, there is little here that makes sense to me. For that, I could look at something like this for a long long time and always be entertained. Another appeal, is a hint of Bosch in Miro’s work that I recall from the fantastical figures within the Garden of Earthly Delights. Most important, there is no indication that this image is anything in particular and that is preferable to something rather obvious and left to be unconsidered any further.