Thinking of Miró: Drawings in Silver
Nestled in the hills overlooking Palma de Mallorca’s bay lies the elegant Rafael Moneo-designed building housing the Pilar i Joan Miró Fundación. A cool refuge on a hot summer day, it offers joyous delights at every visit to see Joan Miró’s artwork.
One of the most elegant aspects of the building is the use of alabaster for the exhibition spaces lighting. These beautiful “windows” are alive, diverse and a compelling complement to Miró’s work. One day, I realised that they were a fascinating subject for my favourite drawing medium, silverpoint. With generous permission granted from the Fundación, I would come armed with small stool and drawing materials, settle down in a discreet corner and lose myself in the intricacies of these panels of alabaster as they glowed and shimmered with the shifting light outside. When I needed a change, I followed the rhythms of wonderful paving stones underfoot in other drawings.
Silverpoint, (or metalpoint), has a very long lineage. It was born in European monasteries. From the 8th century onwards, lead was used for manuscript lines and outlines for illumination before artists turned to drawing in silver and gold. Metalpoint’s heyday was in the early Renaissance as it was the favoured drawing medium (graphite was not yet easily available). It slowly fell out of general use because of its demanding nature: it requires a prepared smooth ground for mark-making with the stylus containing the gold or silver wire, brooks little erasure and never allows punchy darks. Nonetheless, even Rembrandt used it sparingly, to great effect. However, it was generally forgotten until Cennino Cennini’s manuscript of Il Libro dell’Arte was discovered in the 19th century; in it, was a chapter on silverpoint. Since then, the number of artists drawing in silver full time has grown slowly, and today numbers perhaps a hundred worldwide.
As I worked in the Fundación, I kept thinking of Joan Miró’s 1936 statement, “Each grain of dust contains the soul of something marvellous”. These alabaster amalgams of “dust” carried me to a realm of magic and poetry. Each silverpoint drawing shaped itself without my knowing where it was going. Each spoke differently. The alabaster’s spell then led me to experiments and adventures as I sought to evoke Miró’s joyous versions of his “fire in the soul”. I echoed his simple, sensuous shapes in colour, using special Italian paper on which I could draw in silver without having to apply an initial ground. Slowly, slowly, I created this body of work, an intensive, exacting but fascinating adventure. Like lines of poetry, each silverpoint drawing dictated its reply with Miró-esque colour added.
This body of work, “Pensando en Miró”, is my “poem” celebrating Miró, Mallorca and what Joan Miró himself referred to as “the eloquence of silence”, expressed – this time – in shimmering silver lines.