Like a scorched Catalonian landscape, the white cotton of Norbert’s piece is inscribed with contours. Imperceptibly stitched on the legs, chest, stomach and abdomen, concentric curvilinear shapes suggestive of the slopes or inclines on a map are hinting towards the rounded dimensions of the form it conceals, whilst constructing a new terrain above the model’s body. Disguised behind mesh, the face of the model dissolves, and is superimposed with a fluid sweep of Matisse’s brush.
The silhouette, like the petals of an orchid, is delicate yet bold. The fabric stiff, the body’s sex adorned pearlescent. Repetitious minutiae almost make the skin crawl. Asymmetrical cut-outs are slotted together. The double cup over the stomach guides the eye back and forth between the model’s breasts and her navel; the bareness of her skin is striking. An oversized padded hand juts out to the left, beyond the extrusions of the exaggerated waist. Whilst behind, the backs of the legs are cut out, exposing the fragility of the construction. The overlapping curvilinear shapes are those from Miró’s painting, The Tilled Field.
Painted in the summer of 1923, a view of Miró’s family farm in Montroig, Catalonia, The Tilled Field was one of the first examples of Miró’s Surrealist explorations. Animals, plants and human appendages are dotted amongst an arid landscape, the background flattened to a rusty yellow sky with a black line for the horizon above a bleached sandy ground. Absurd at moments: a listening ear is growing off the side of a tree, with an eye up in the leaves, and a black lizard-like creature, with a pointed cone head skulking at its base.
These iconographic features reference the cultural heritage of medieval Spain – the muted palette of tapestries, the stylised animals of frescos – whilst in the top left hand corner, the French, Catalan, and Spanish flags display a political engagement. The opposition of the flags (French and Catalan on one side of a tree, Spanish on the other) defies the Spanish dictatorship and boldly states Miró’s Catalonian allegiance.
It was in these years (1923-24) that Miró visited Paris, where he encountered Andre Breton and other Surrealist and Dada artists. His painting style had already dramatically changed, moving further away from a figurative depiction of nature to a point of uncluttered stylised abstraction. This is evident in a work such as Maternity (1924), which is centred around the traditional motif of mother and child. The figures are suggested in lines and shapes; a black dot within a circle, frogspawn-like, is a breast, teetering like a weight on a scale. The eye is led down a thin line to the opposite side of the painting, where a pointed breast in profile is tipping like a wine glass. Hanging from both, two tiny stick figure children are suckling. There is a fragility and softness tinged with a danger in this piece, which is perhaps conveyed more directly through the formal qualities of the abstract shapes than may have been achieved figuratively.
Throughout his life, Miró not only painted, but also sculpted, wrote poetry and made pottery. It is this versatility of style and transitioning across mediums that Nobert finds inspiring when thinking about his own practice. Before studying Fashion Womenswear at CSM, Norbert studied Fine Art Painting at The Hungarian University of Fine Arts. The transition between mediums he finds “tightly bound”; indeed, his White Show piece demands the language of painting in its appraisal.
The eye is drawn to the broken horizontal lines, running across the waist and shoulders. The right shoulder extends out almost a foot, to a point, and curves back to the body. The left shoulder stops short, denying symmetry, but it is not missed; if there had been symmetry, the upper body would have been dominated by a look of bull’s horns. Instead, the eye is drawn to the centre, where the waist is a meeting point for the various parts of the outfit. Working inwards from the extremities of the trousers, to the cut out shapes across the stomach, these suggestive lines hug the skin and act to create a tension with the loose ‘slotted on’ top above. The top is decorated with spiralling lines delineating the breasts, the point at which the clothing hangs significantly off from the body, instilling an anxiety to the outfit; the clothing simply rests on the body; what will be revealed once the body is in movement? Of course, we already know. From behind, the trousers are cut away by a wavering hand drawn line, which exposes the model legs. The revealing nature of this outfit is heightened by the bulk of the items, so much so that the curved forms of the top and bottom parts overlap.
Additionally, attention is drawn to the collections of pearls, embellishing the most sensitive parts of the body. With an irresistible sheen, the eye may linger cautiously, but that lingering is now made candid through confrontation with the embellishments. Curiously, one of the main areas of identification when encountering a body is masked: the head is shrouded in an opaque fabric, making the features of the face indiscernible. Instead, superimposed, a painted face in profile takes its place. This piece visually undermines the viewer’s expectations, playfully engaging and exciting with every turn.
Words Maia Gaffney-Hyde