Thursday, 11 February 2016

Museu d'Art Modern Tarragona and a Carnaval firework finale

We had lightly researched Tarragona's indoor attractions
Self portrait by Salvador Martorell 
prior to our visit expecting, at some point, to be driven undercover by the forecast winds and rain. As it turned out this preparation was almost completely unnecessary so we are still pretty much none the wiser about the city's Roman heritage. Dave's daughters, visiting from England, were keen make enjoying the sunshine a priority and we had already explored fabulous sites in Nimes and Arles late last year. However, we did overlook the ruined amphitheatre with its ocean backdrop and lots of solid Roman walls can be viewed simply by walking around the streets. The photograph below shows two column segments with Roman inscriptions and a Hebrew-inscribed tombstone, all of which had been embedded into a relatively modern wall of the Antiga Casa del Dega. In other places, historical ruins were separated from streets only by wire fencing so we could peer past feral cat gangs to admire towers and arches.

Roman inscriptions and a Hebrew tombstone 
One museum I definitely didn't want to miss though was
Maria, La Gitana by Julio Antonio 
the Museu d'Art Modern Tarragona (MAMT). Established in its present location in 1976, MAMT's collections include a large number of bronzes by sculptor Julio Antonio, a huge Miro tapestry and works by Lluis Saumells (a director at MAMT whose public work Thales we had viewed the day before). Several rooms were taken up with a temporary Rafael Bartolozzi exhibition with which, to be honest, I was rather underwhelmed! I loved the detail and expression in the Julio Antonio sculptures though. My favourite of his works, pictured here, is entitled Maria, La Gitana and was created in 1906. The Salvador Martorell self portrait pictured at the top of this post was great fun and I would like to find more of his work in the future.

Joan Miro tapestry at MAMT 
Joan Miro's tapestry was much larger than the example we saw in Montroig and this one was actually created during his lifetime. Miro had given a painting in the same design, in lieu of payment, to a young doctor who had treated his daughter after she was hit by a train in Montroig. That painting inspired Miro to embark on his then-new artistic direction commissioning the young artist Josep Royo to create tapestries of striking Miro designs.

Of the modern works at MAMT, I especially liked the
Homenatge a Julio Antonio
by Francesc Angles 
relaxed style of Homenatge a Julio Antonio by Francesc Angles, created in 1995. Angles is another artist whose public work we had already seen outdoors in Tarragona - he sculpted Als Castellers.

If you visit MAMT too, be sure to pay attention to the building's interior as well as to the artworks. There are some beautifully decorated niches and ceilings, classically white painted, but with interesting details.

After this afternoon of serious culture, our evening was completely different. The last event of Carnaval was a firework display with a difference in the Plaza del Rey. This enclosed square was a fabulous venue for the well-choreographed madness! People dressed up as devils and demons skipped around with whirling fireworks held over their heads - scattering sparks everywhere which an eerie banshee wailing sound. Troops of drummers beat out primeval rhythms and four large costumes of mythical beasts - a bull, a griffin and two dragons - were each worn by a man who made them dance. The creatures were also loaded with fireworks that sprayed or spun sparks high into the air. Once the procession of these demons and creatures had entered the square, their fireworks were repeated reloaded so they could take turns being centre stage. I noticed that the drummer troops were each associated with a beast. They would start up their rhythm, then speed up when all the beast's fireworks were alight and firing, and slow down again once all the fireworks had burnt out. I guess this was a signal to the man within the costume that he could safely return to his 'team' for reloading. It was all an incredible spectacle!