Miro: Sculptor, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

5.00

Everyone knows Miro as the artist of big, colourful canvases – but this survey of his sculpture gives him another dimension

Unless, unlike me, you are a Miró specialist, you would probably not take Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel for the Catalan master's work. There are several reasons why not.

One is that we tend to think of Joan Miró as a painter and this is a sculpture – a bronze, although it appears to be, and was, modelled from bits and bobs the artist had lying around in his studio. The tower of the work's title is a split cane hat-stand, the tantalus waving from the deep-sea-fish-thing on top of it a wooden pitchfork. The fish's body is harder to get. As it happens, it is the mannequin-head of Groucho Marx, the comic's tell-tale features, face-up, shrouded in bronze cloth; the open aperture of its neck forming the creature's gaping mouth.

If you allow that Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel is by Miró after all, then it is clearly an early sculpture, done in the mid-1920s when he was in Paris and working as a fully-paid-up Surrealist. But no. This strange hybrid, an assemblage of found objects reeking of Duchamp and 1927, was made in Mallorca in 1977 when Miró was 84 years old.

So here is the problem. For most of us, Miró is not just a painter but a painter in old age – the one who made those big, colourful, likeable canvases, the artist we know from the tail fins of Iberia jets or the logo of the Spanish Tourist Board. The leap from that Miró to this – the maker of Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel, which is currently on show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – is a wide one. And yet Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel is entirely typical of Miró, not least in its being sculpture.

At 19, and in the teeth of his silversmith father's opposition, Miró enrolled at the Escola d'Art in Barcelona. His teacher was Francesc Galí, a proto-Modernist who had already worked his way through Post-Impressionism and Symbolism and would end up as a Cubist. For all that, Galí was a rigorous draftsman.

Young Joan was encouraged to draw from objects which he had handled blindfold; to work from touch rather than from sight. In middle age, he recalled the experience. "Even today, 30 years later," Miró said, "the effect of this touch-drawing returns in my interest in sculpture: the need to mould with my hands – to pick up a ball of wet clay like a child and squeeze it. From this I get a physical sensation that I cannot get from drawing or painting".

Standing on the terrace above the sculpture park's formal garden, these words seem oddly apt. Wafted on the wind is the unmistakeable smell of pigs, calling to mind the other great influence in Miró's early life. When he moved to Paris in 1918, the Catalan took with him paintings begun on his parents' farm at Mont-Roig del Camp. These contained the seeds of what was to be his 70-year vocabulary as an artist – maize tassels that morphed into starfish and then into stars and then became maize tassels again; the bulbous shapes that were eyes or breasts or buttocks, or possibly tomatoes, or all four.

More even than Picasso, Miró invented his own cosmology, a world of things to each of which there was a season, and then another and another. What we see in Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel – in its back-of-the-attic materials, its back-to-the-Twenties style – is not so much recycling as replanting, less Miró the Surrealist than Miró the farmer. This is true not just of the sculptures as a whole but of each of them, however unalike they seem.

Here, on the terrace, is Femme, much more Miró than the Tour Eiffel to eyes used to his late painting. Femme is two metres high, cartoony, child-like, a rectangular head stuck on a conical body, bulbous protuberances and a tear-shaped recess reading as buttocks and a vagina. Then again, these may simply be olives and a leaf from Mont-Roig. The leaf and the olives may even be painterly, since these forms also appear in Miró's two-dimensional works. The incised swirl in Femme's face, a lopsided grin in bronze, has the feel of brushstroke. It finds its inverse in another, smaller Femme in the sculpture park's Undergound Gallery, a skinny, graphic, wiry bronze that would fit nicely into its bigger sister's smile.

Positives and negatives; sculpture that looks like painting that looks like sculpture; late work that seems early, and vice versa; body parts that move about – eyes in groins, dicks as arms – then change species or biological kingdom or dimension, or alter their meanings, are symbolic one moment and gestural the next. All these things are in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park's fascinating Miró show. They allow us to see him not merely as a sculptor but as a creator of universes, a maker of worlds.

 

To 6 Jan 2013 (01924 832631)

Art choice

Johan Zoffany, often overlooked 18th-century German painter of British royalty, enters the spotlight at London's Royal Academy, and he's cheekier than you'd expect (to 10 Jun). At Tate Britain, you can trace the influence of Picasso on British artists from Wyndham Lewis to Hockney via Francis Bacon – or just bask in the glory of the Picassos (to 15 Jul).

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit