Seoane, Luis

Luis Seoane was born in Buenos Aires in 1910. His parents, emigrants from Galicia, came from a family of farmers and professionals, with a long line of jurists, priests, and lineage ancestors. They returned to Galicia so promptly that he does not remember spending his childhood anywhere else, especially in the countryside, in a land, in a physical and human landscape of such nature that it led to the creation of a word the Galician language shares with Portuguese, and which does not have a corresponding term, as far as I know, in any other language: saudade.

There, in the heart of Galicia, he breathes the same sacred air that once surrounded the Celtic druids and the Christian pilgrims on the Way of St. James. In Santiago de Compostela he studies Law, and although he does go on to practice it, it is art that guides his steps since his early youth. He lives among poets, researchers, critics, doctors who bring him the latest expressionist publications from Germany, Republicans with whom he fights since his adolescent years against the languid and tortuous Bourbon monarchy. Nothing is unknown to him: theatre, historical sciences, Freud, Picasso, Einstein, Kandinsky, Irish poets, the legends of The Golden Bough, Dos Passos, Japanese prints, the prodigious stained glass windows —which are now almost unheard of— of León’s Cathedral —which he discovers, as well as Santiago’s Cathedral, through participating in a tuna (a university music band)—, the Catalan Romanesque…

At that time, in the 1930s, his drawings —the reproductions of such— were passed along young and not-so-young people in Galicia’s capital cities, as well as in Madrid and Barcelona. The Spanish tragedy forces him to return to his birthplace in 1936, to the Buenos Aires he dreamed of as a creole, with the soul of Martín Fierro and Facundo galloping on the back of a horse down the European avenues of the ‘gringos’ and the Austral Islands, courtesan and cosmopolitan estates of Mayo’s heirs. Here, he suffered the fate of the exiled: he worked as a runner for an auction agency, as an advertisement illustrator, a journalist, a layout designer for all types of publications, an editor, a bookseller, a director of magazine and book collections, a muralist. Always painting, printing, drawing, writing. And reading. Countless are the kilometres of foreign books and magazines that have passed through his eyes.

A double nostalgia, a double hope, a double human condition denote his destiny. The Celtic Galicia and the creole Argentina call for him taking turns —or at the same time—; and this feeling in his soul of being pulled by two lands —an ocean in between— makes him, in a way, more habitant of this Earth, bringing him closer, at last, to the universal.

Lorenzo Varela

[Fragment extracted from Seoane o el arte sometido a la libertad (Seone or The Art Subjected to Freedom), Ediciones Esquema XX, Buenos Aires, 1966]

Self-portrait of the author (1967)