Artistic and political vocations hand in hand
A man who used every medium he could to further the causes he believed in
By Alina Tortosa
For the Herald
Luis Seoane was born in Buenos Aires in 1910, the son of Galician immigrants. In 1919 the family went back to Spain, where he went to school and graduated as a lawyer in Santiago de Compostela. He took an active part in the Federación Universitaria Escolar in leading roles, while he worked at his art and exhibited drawings and paintings. His artistic and his political vocations went hand in hand, aiding and abetting each other, in a rich personal and professional life, in which he took advantage of every means and media available to support and further the causes he believed in. The question of identity, always at the heart of issues related to people who are born astride different cultures, was not a deterrent, on the contrary, it seems to have given extra strength to his endeavours as a man with social and political preoccupations and as an artist. He returned to Buenos Aires in 1936 to avoid the Spanish Civil War -I imagine he felt that neither side represented the basic needs of his beloved Galicia. So far, I have not found a comment on the subject-. In 1971 he returned to Spain, where he lived till he died in La Coruña on April 5, 1979.
His first known pieces are drawings described as some illustrative, others satirical, critical and political, by Valeriano Bozal, the curator of the exhibition of Seoane’s work currently on show at the MAMba -Museo de Arte Moderno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires-. These drawings do not foretell what was to come, neither do his first paintings, obviously the work of somebody in the process of learning how to.
The lines in his drawings developed into lyrical and playful representations, social in essence -Bozal, again- but free from the restraining influence of propaganda art. Later on his drawings would describe with affection the women and men of his native Galicia as immigrants aboard a ship, or sitting in pensive or restful attitudes, or lounging naked. The nudes and some portraits have a strong influence of Picasso, and, at least one of the portraits, of Soutine.
His first paintings were figurative in earthy, brownish hues, far away from the bold and colourful planes, drawn within black lines or cernes, as the French call them, which represent his achievement as an artist. These later paintings are the axis in which the Romanesque experience of his native Galicia, his Celtic inheritance, his stalwart peasant background, his knowledge and appreciation of modernist developments join to celebrate with robust energy a meaningful past and an auspicious present. His human figures acquired serenity, a being there quietly and gracefully that denotes strength. Women as stable, worthy representatives of the community are the subject of many of his figure portraits.
Luis Seone’s work includes ceramics, printing, scenography and murals as well. An impressive collection of his prints is owned by the MAMba, and on show in “Perpectivas”, the room on the first floor. As a printer he worked on wood, linoleum, metal and stone, he also engaged in serigraphy and stencil. He did not think that the technique chosen defined the work of an artist; he believed the artist ought to redefine techniques, if necessary, to suit his purpose. An old dilemma with traditional print makers, who tend to become too engrossed in the technical aspects of their work, leaving little or no margin for creativity.
His mural work can be seen at the Teatro San Martín, at the Galería Larreta on Florida Street, Esmeralda 561 and at the Galería Santa Fé, on Santa Fé Av. 1600. To illustrate the scenes he wanted to depict on a wall, which he treated as a huge canvass, he used stone, marble, iron, bronze, ceramics, glass, mosaic and chemical paint. He enjoyed this representation in public places as it gave him a feeling of sharing his art with the passer by who would not normally have access to his painted work.
Publishing, graphic work and writing were also an important part of his agenda.
A very well curated show that should not be missed. An enjoyable outing that will whet the appetite for more knowledge on this community conscious and versatile artist.
Two very interested catalogues were published for the occasion. One, by the MAMba, with careful reproductions of paintings, prints, murals and ceramics in argentine collections. A larger and more comprehensive catalogue was printed by the Xunta de Galicia for this show that started out at the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea de Santiago de Compostela last December, is on now in Buenos Aires till August 20, and will move on to the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio Caraffa de la Ciudad de Córdoba -October and November 2000.