The Galician Academy of Fine Arts agreed to dedicate the “Día das Artes Galegas” 2019 to Luis Seoane López (Buenos Aires, 1910 – A Coruña, 1979). The figure of Luis Seoane is key to understanding the development of Galician contemporary art, as he knew how to articulate tradition and avant-garde in his proposals. Art theorist, designer, caricaturist or painter, Luis Seoane was sensitive to the reality of the Galician people, especially emigration. In “Emigrante” (1967) he reflects the harsh living conditions faced by Galician emigrants in Switzerland, far from their homeland in search of a better future. Paradoxically, the conditions in the Galician countryside today are not very promising. Immersed in a process of abandonment and aging, the rural struggles to claim itself, not as a place to visit, but as a “habitable and inhabited” space where it is possible to develop an integral life plan.
Seoane is a key figure in the generation of Galician Art Renovators, who renew the forms but maintaining the essence and theme of Galician culture. There is, however, a formal link with popular Romanesque and Baroque sculpture, but it introduces the large planes of colour so characteristic of his painting. Social denunciation is present in Seoane’s work, and his painting shows characters oppressed and trapped without redemption by social injustice.
In the chosen work, “Emigrante”, the painter denounces the problem of illiteracy and Galician emigration during the Franco dictatorship. Luis Seoane told Victor Freixanes about the work “Emigrante” in an interview:
“It’s a story that happened and that I read in the newspapers; a story of emigrants. A Galician woman who in her life had left the village travelled to Switzerland to see her sons working there. Neighbors wrote her sons’ addresses in Geneva on a sign and hung the sign around her neck. That’s how they put her on the train. The poor woman was showing everyone her sign with the address written so that they would tell her in each case which train to take, which counter to go to, which queue to stand in… She spoke nothing but Galician and ended up completely mad after a trip that never ended. When she arrived in Geneva she didn’t know who she was or recognize anyone: she just showed her little sign and moaned, she didn’t even talk anymore. They wouldn’t let her through. There, as everywhere else, they are very astute and aseptic: a woman in those conditions, sick and disturbed, could not enter the country, it is not profitable, it is useless. Her sons couldn’t do much either. Here ends the story: they put a painkiller in her, put her on a train without consciousness, and sent her back to the village. I read the story in the newspapers and immediately painted the picture you see; the sign is almost enough. Tragedy comments itself…”
My photography uses Seoane’s work as an excuse to situate it in a new context: the situation in which the Galician countryside is currently living, a progressive depopulation caused by the internal movements of the populations towards the large urban centres and by the increasing difficulty in accessing basic services in the countryside. The photograph was taken in Xinzo de Limia, head of a region where this situation has been evident for decades. The person who poses with the poster, Lola, is a native of the area and one of the most vindictive voices of the region. The undefined background of Seoane’s painting was replaced by an old wall that could belong to any abandoned house, although in fact it is the Xinzo cemetery, which perhaps adds a little more drama. In the poster, I chose to personify the Limia in the third person and make her the object of the supplications. The poster is no longer an imperative sentence (Help her), but becomes a question and a warning to all.