Publications and forewords



Grial Magazine, number 70 (1980)

“How to buy artistic value with art works”. To these words, which stood out in the offer annunced by a New York company especialized in selling original engravings by postal request, I owe my decision to finally write these notes. Several years ago, I wanted to start en essay about the Xosé Conde Corbal’s works, but I was restrained by the distance and lack of access to all his engravings. I was “The American friend” who spent few days every summer in Ourense; the one who lacked essential data for the formulation of a final comment. Perhaps, it is a curious fact, but when I saw that the advertisemente in The New York Times tried to sell the artistic value as trade goods, caused me a completely unexpected sense of urgency, because, as a flash of lighting, I recalled the converstions I had with Xosé Conde Corbal about the value of his engravings and I felt the need of starting a dialogue about his work. No matter how accurate the last words are, what is important is to start thar comment that came alive a critical discusion, because I have been convinced for a long time that Conde Corbal’s works deserves and can support a serious and thorough attention. Furthermore, while organising the personal aesthetic of an artist, I think that the comment will lead to take the Galician problem into deep consideration, because the work of Conde Corbal is constantly linked to this conuntry and with in this framework his contribution should be placed.

Although it is always difficult to get into the verbalization of visual aesthetics, in this case a pictorial statement made by the artist himself as an entrance to a series of engravings on the Civil War in Galicia helps us. In the first six engravings, there are six “escolantes” figures who inspired and participated in the development of the scenes of war, drawn by Conde Corbal. Five of these figures are members of Generación Nós, who as a group and as individuals influenced the education of the painter. The sixth figure is Valle, also well-known in Galicia, but that figure is different from the others, both because of his age [ he was ten years younger than Cabanillas, the oldest one of the above mentioned] and his Galician descent. Although he always considered himself Galician, he wrote his work in Spanish and his approach to Galician identity was personal. Despite that, the close bond between the work of Castelao and Conde Corbal, and the obedient eloquence of Vicente Risco, claimed by himself, I think the best way to fully understand the graphic sense of his engravings is by understanding their relationship with the aesthetic principles of Valle-Inclán.

The relationship is as explicit as narrow as Conde Corbal does not only portray Valle-Inclán among the masters of the series on the Civil War, but he made three series of engraving based on the work of Don Ramón: six engravings representing the first six scenes of Luces de Bohemia; twelve that make up the series Amor y muerte en Valle-Inclán [Love and Death on Valle-Inclán] and six which make up the series Etnografía Gallega  [Galician Ethnography]. These engravings, which are among the first ones made by Conde Corbal, announced the two “addresses” which all his later work will have: the nore or less obvious deformation, and concern for Galicia. Instead of illustrations for the work of Valle-Inclán, they are comments which highlight, in an accurate way, the aesthetic rules of Don Ramón, “translating” or returning the verbal principles of the grotesque to its visual origin and proving that both the first early work of Valle and the fully grotesque work, follow the same intention of deep-rooted graphs. It is as if in an allusive, almost parabolic, way, Conde Corbal had seen the verbal parable left by Valle in La lámpara maravillosa, and in some of his autobiographical characteres [especially Max Estrella and Don Estrafalario].

For those readers who know the work of Valle-Inclán, what these engravings get as a whole, is an instant recognition of the original works. Watching them is experiencing the intuitive moment, the same aesthetic concurrence mentioned in one of the quotations from La cabeza de Bautista as a change in the “law of things and the pace of action. As in dreams and death, it seems that the law of time has changed”. Such  an explosion or moment of recognition is due to several factors, especially due to a conscious and controlled deformation of the line that aesthetics of La lámpara maravillosa [This miracle achieved on the lines, diveting them and imprisoned them in an aesthetic canon […] claim and external compression of visual elements within the the formal  “framework “-page, scene or frame. The grotesque scenes are almost simultaneous, characters, suggestions, hints are stacked. In the etching, the action of an entire scene or a play is condensed [ or, as Valle-Inclán would say, “stands”] in a drawing. There is an enormous confusion of lines, movement; aspects of the work which are not represented, but suggested, and thus they are include much more than expected within the delimited space. Figures are all too human, rude; the stage is a series fo shadows and shapes more sketched than represented. Although we have not seen the grotesque, or the Barbarian Comedy, they appears on scene in engravings and they charge, at least, the display of theatrical life that Valle-Inclán wanted for them.

These convergences are very clear in the engraving series “Amor y muerte” featuring scene from Los cuernos de don Friolera. The action represented Conde Corbal corresponds to scene number four and speciafically to three quotations describing the debate between Don Friolera and Doña Loreta, his “unfaithful” wife. When Don Friolera brandishes a big pistol, Pacheguín, the lame barber who lives on the other side of the street, goes to the “house of the tragedy” to help his lover. This is the central scene of the grotesque, and by choosing it Conde Corbal shows his perception as a reader which confirms the completion of the engraving because when we take a look we recognize not only the fourth scene, but also the entire work. Especially evocative is the figure of Don Friolera, who contains the full development of his pathetic attempts to “clean” his honor. The man is having a rough time and he is completely mad while he jumps and screams next to the couple who are embracing each other. The pistol is not aiming Loreta, but the air, reminding us that when he shoots he will not kill his wife, but his daughter. In this figure Conde Corbal gives espression to what Valle-Inclán called “the unique gesture” of Don Friolera. He sets [either in words or lines] the most represtative expression [and unspeakable] of a person, experience or emotion. We see Don Friolera in this scene, at that moment, but at the same time we see all other aspects of him [all kinds of Don Friolera], since the line was altered, changed in such a way that it expresses or evokes much it could be represented.

Another figure in this engraving should be pointed out because it expemplifies another aspect of the deformation that characterizes many of the engravings. This figure is the owl that looks at the triangle of characters who are arguing in the garden. In the grotesque the “Owl” is the malicious and noisy old woman who prompts the entire conflict when he writes an anonymous message to Don Friolera in order to warn him of the infidelities of Doña Loreta. In this scene, “the woman reappears in the window of her attic, and under the moon, owl-eyed, she spies”. It is one of the many “animalized” characters appearing on the work of Valle, rude and degraded characters, but fair, because their information always corresponds to the perversion of the character [ I remenber, for example, that Tirano Banderas looked like a frog]. In the case of Doña Tadea Calderón, the “owl” in this scene, animalization makes a far-reaching allusion, as her name suggests guilt and aesthetic conventions beyond her role as a indiscreet and curious matchmaker [and writer]. Conde Corbal turned the allusive portrait into visual and verbal suggestions propossed by Valle. As a grotesque and intiutive bird at night, Doña Tadea witnessed it all, but she misuses her knowledge to cause harm and pain.

It is this perversion, the transformation of intuition into espionage, love into lust,the inner process that translated into “altered” lines unifies all Valle-Inclán’s engravings. Thus, although is seems that three different series of attempts were born, they are closely related, and the purposes pointed out for Don Friolera’s engraving are valid for the series Luces de Bohemia and Etnografía gallega, Let’s think about, for exmaple, the two engravings that correspond to Flor de Santidad. At first sight, the purpose of Conde Corbal seems quite far from the engraving Los cuernos de don Friolera, as there is not a clear similarity with the story, and Adega, the main character, barely differs from the other figures. It seems obvious that in this series Conde Corbal is not as interested in the personal experiences of Valle’s characters, as in the rites, ceremonies and collective beliefs in which they are involved. The engravings reflect a careful reading of the corresponding works [and those who had read  Valle’s books would recognice the scenes at first glance], but they also reflect the artist’s ethnographic interest and his personal investigation of many pilgrimages and fairs that survive in Galicia. Moreover, for Valle-Inclán, althought he wrote with a deep knowledge of Galicia, knowledge he had since he was child, and although he always loved his native country, Galicia and Galician environment are even more. The characters and their ancient relationship with this world stars in arguments of some of his most significant works, but Galician always transcends, he refers to it beyond himself, in order to suggest not only a world but also the World that was about to disintegrate. Though, sometimes, these works make some ethnographic comments, it is never their purpose.

From this perspective, the purpose of Conde Corbal is different because there is a documentary side of the engravings that shows the contemporary relevance, although buried underground, of Galician culture, especially in the earlyh 1970’s. His concern while painting the survival of this culture is to make it known. Valle’s work is a starting point: at the same time, Conde highlights the Galician background of the “Castilianized” writer and starts his own graphic exploration of the world left in Galicia after about four centuries of silence. The vision offered in this series of engravings is a precarious and paradoxical world where the traditional Galician culture is almost excluded. The engravings based on Flor de Santidad show sacred meaning of two rites [the nine waves rite held at A Lanzada sea, and Nosa Señora dos Milagres rite, held in Amil], but they also suggest weathered or kind of obscene side of them. In the engraving corresponding to the nine waves swim, women go for a swim, impressed with the rite of beling naking and plunging into the waves, while a crippled man leans his body on a crutch while looking sideways. His mischievous glance devalues the holy aspet of the rite it suggests the same wicked and malicious implications that also appear in Flor de Santidad where there is another paradoxical vision of the current celebration. The same paradox surrounds the engraving based on the Pilgrimage of Nosa Señora dos Milagres, where the fi-gures, in a devout procession, but obviously poor, carry on their shoulders an statue of the Virgin and the coffin of a living sinner. We are terrified due to the devotion and “primitive” sense of these celbrations, but we are also shocked by contracts. In the same way the the lascicious crippled man makes us think about the rite of the nine waves, the beauty and wealth of the Virgin highlights the poverty of the people. The brightness of his crown contrasts with the black clothes of people and the serenity or her smile stands out the wrinkled foreheads and sad expressions of the people around. Anyone familiar with this celebration knows that many times, the mantle of the Virgin goes out of the church already covered with notes pinned in it by the parishioners who expect healing miracles as a reward. These contrasts and dichotomies suggested about Galician people are opened as a circus as we watch the engravings and they increasingly evoke our historical and political thoughts.

Whith these considerations, we are again at the nexus of the link between Conde Corbal and Valle-Inclán, because it is exactly this aesthetic of perplexity, of circuses that open to suggest other works and other considerations, which is offered to us by the aesthetic “quietism” of Don Ramón, the precarious balance between intellect and feeling, identification and alienation, distance and approach. Never mind that the two artists have different purposses when working with the Galician reality, the lesson learned by Conde Corbal from Valle is that arts, even the art or teaching [that means, in order to be authentically art of teaching] must be impact and at the same time it must evoke reflection. Once the first impression or -let’s use the image La lámpara maravillosa–  the first rose explodes, circuses have to keep opening, which can only be achieved through a deformation [ or reformation ] of the line. The artist can not create their means, but the material is presented to be recreated. Thus, as Valle-Inclán protrays with words an owl-woman or alters the number of waves and includes the rite of “captive bouquet” in the nine waves swim of Flor de Santidad, or merges the villages of his childhood to create his own Tierra del Salnés; Conde Corbal moves a line, he gives the disabled a depraved grin, slightly deforms the walls of the Chapel of A Lanzada, and after taking a look to the engravings, we are a little surprised: we recognize the traditions, but we question their value and meanig in a more familiar world: “The aesthetic quietism has a hallucinatory force. It starts a more subtle look of things, and at the same time our knowledge is clouded because we sense the mystery in them. It is the revelation of the hidden meaning which sleeps in everything that has been crated, and when we notice that we feel puzzled”. [ La lámpara maravillosa].

When we leave the three series of “Valleinclanismo” engravings and deal with most of Conde Corbal’s work, it is possible, at first glance, to notice more differences than similarities. These engravings seem to be aimed at a different public, they do not make any literary contribution and the subjects are clearly Galician, they show scenes from the interior of Galicia (especially Ourense) or from the coas ( I am thinking, for example, of the series of engravings about the “dorna” or those that show views of the Vigo pier). Now, if we remenber the “Etnografia Galega” series, we will see that they serve as a verbal aesthetic link to all subsequent engraving, since in addition to announcing the main Galician interest, they point out the aesthetic principles that determine the graphic formulation of that central concern. Like the ethnographic engravings, the Galician engravings that follow them are neither pinturesque, nor traditional, nor folkloric.  Again the key words are “recognition” and “memory”, and it is this composition and the intensification of the commitment that Conde Corbal makes to the Galician people can best be observed by examining specific engravings. I will take my examples from three series: The engravings that present the “dorna” and its people, those that catalog and name Galician birds, and those that illustrate threatened buildings in Ourense. (I don’t work with the most recent series, the Civil War in Galicia, the Costa da Morte, or Galician fish and flowers, bacause although I know them I don’t have them at the moment).

Let’s consider first two engravings from the series “La dorna y los que viven de ella” which introduces the people of the sea of Galicia. In one of them, a carpenter is working on the shipbiulding of a dorna; in another one, there is a woman with her children pulling a trailer. The introductory words for “A dorna”, by Xaquín Lourenzo, published in 1933 in Nós, warn us of Conde Corbal’s intentions in this series: capturing a moment of transition, an element, in this case the dorna, from the sea life that is giving way to progress and locking itself in a process that leads to their disappearance. The attempt, explains Lourenzo, is not based on nostalgia or complaints, since the change of dornas by moderns ships can improve the life of sailors. However, we decline to accept the change, because such improvement means a threat to artisans and to the cooperation that characterizes the families and villages of the sailors. It is a “critical” moment when a less dangerous life is about to begin, but, at the same time, many customs which brought people of the sea together for centuries are about to disappear.

Conde Corbal’s engravings, as the opening words of Lourenzo, try to evoke the  complexity of this transition. They introduce the collective aspects of the  work of a sailor, the crafwork that involves the shipbuilding of the dorna and the simple beauty of its lines and shape in the water. But it also introduces the concern and distress that characterize the lives of seafarers. The elongated and tense faces show the long hours spent at sea, the danger of violent storms, and the alineation which involves a collective work, where people carry on their missions together, but they are always alone. [This alienation within the collective work can be also oberved in other similar series of engra-vings: “As xentes do mar de Vigo”]. The isolation is particularly effective in the engravings of women and their children. The woman, dressed in black, mourning like so many other women in the fishing villages, is completely alone. We see her from behind an she is like any woman, se has no face or features, followed by her children, she stays away from us, and perhaps also from them. Her solitude is not softened by any landscape or the company of another woman; she is alone with her work and concerns, and in the engraving, her isolation is represented by the empty space. When we look at it and see this woman within the graphic statement she does with the other sailor together, but lost in thoughts, our reaction is complex: we realize that the craftwork and that kind of world are disappearing, but we also think about how difficult this out -of- date life should be. A thought that leads, as requested Lourenzo, to an effort to gradually introduce progress, that means, take advantage of it, but without loosing blindly, without memory, the valuable elements of traditional life. These memories, with no regrets, are what Conde Corbal’s engravings want to promote: a not depressed, if not active, recognition towards his always suggestive and sometimes distorted lines lead us. We see “naked” or “pure” reality every day without recognizing the paradox of the complexity of such a change as the modernization of fishing.

Another acknowledgement has to be added. By using the introductory words written in 1933 by Xaquín Lourenzo, Conde Corbal makes another suggestion that should thrill us: the words are effective even forty years after writing them. So, not only are we experiencing the same “moment” of crisis for the dorna, but the current situation of sailors in Galicia is the same as the one that sailors who worked before the War of 1936 experienced. Suddenly, the recognition is even more complicated, because we can see that the engravings captured not only a world that is disappearing, but also an industry and a country that lived marginalized for half a century. They evoke the precariousness of Galician fishing industry and remind us of this difficult time when booth the industrial pollution and fishing methods of seamen threaten the waters and sealife. In this way, they ask for changes and attention far beyond the simple and often irresponsible “modernization”. They ask them for a further development of the industry and real improvement of the working conditions of seafarers.

The same problematic that he directs in the engravings on dressage also leads a rich series “Birds of Galicia”, made in 1977, are the first examples of a much broader work including fish, flowers and fauna of Galicia. In the introductory words of the birds, Vicente Rodríguez Gracia explains that “his purpose is to rescue a sort of Galicia that also exists” a recovery that involves “collecting and presenting – drawing and naming them in Galician and Latin – the scientific galician environment to Galician people”. It is a work which, although supported by scientific research, it is never restricted, neither shut in libraries, museums or dictionaries. The purpose is to make accessible the resulting collection from the research of biologists and artists in order to become familiar and to make people value the world around them in Galicia, and also to create a complete written and draw record of their culture.

As the beginning of this project, the engravings of birds accuratly follow the purposes presented in the “Prologue”, although at first glance the viewer may think the contrary, the contradiction arises from our hopes in the education or teaching field. So we read the opening words of Rodríguez Gracia, and, despite his warning, we expect a plausible, detailed and “realistic” series or birds. Then, we could be surprised by engravings because, besides they are black and white made, they are not very precise; instead of introducing the birds, they are suggested, which may upset us if we do not relate them to the previous engravings and if we do not relate the written comment to the visual field. As indicated in the “Prologue”, the engravings were made to focus our attention not on the object [photo reproduction], but on the bird. The absence of color is natural if the author’s intention is that we do not marvel in front of the engraving [the arts], as we do in front of a colorful picture or photo, but that we take into cosideration the bird. The intention of focusing our sight towards the bird also explains the lack of precision [sometimes even strain] in the engravings. As Rodríguez Gracia says, “the purpose is to capture the bird with its gestalt”. Since we will never see rigid and detailed birds, like they were dead in an enciclopedia, it is useless to reproduce them in that way, if what the artist wants is to stimulate recognition. A better idea is to suggest them, draw them as we see them: moving, flying. A vague line, a confusing shape becomes compulsory; a bird that flies to be fixed, instead of a scientific drawing of a perfect bird. The analogy with the engravings of the dorna is clear: they are neither for the Ministry of Tourism, nor are these for the Britannica Encyclopedia. They point to a different concept of memory and recognition. They do not avoid documentation, but they use it to recreate it, to make it ours, both in an effective and intellectual way. [Esperience that, like the aesthetic quietism of Don Ramón, rests on the balance of the two reactions without falling to the extreme of any -neither sentimentalism nor the abstraction of the academy].

The same analogy also guides us, when we look at the many engravings of Ourense, a city that fascinated Conde Corbal for a long time, a city that appears in his work for nearly twenty years [see, for example, the drawings prepared for the edition of Monumental Ourense, a book done in collaboration with Ferro Couselo], leads us to the same analogy as the one used in his series of the Birds.

The dialectic between reality and traditional urbanism, mentioned by Rodríguez Gracia when commenting on the farmworker world in his Foreword to the series of Conde Corbal’s engravings of birds, also interests us here, where the dialectical struggle is not between rural and urban reality, but within the urban environment where they face two opposing concepts: modernization and change. It evokes the same balance between progress and conservation as the one seen in the engravings of the Off Shore People, suggesting that the consequences of escaping from poverty are not better than misery itself, because progress seems to require the destruction of a culture and all their traditions.

What Conde Corbal saw and experienced in Ourense is the price of that process. In the name of modernization and improvement, not only buildings are destroyed, but entire neighbourhoods of great historical heritage. His engravings, as well as his ongoing collaboration with architects and politicians, tried to raise awareness and provoke a double asimilation in people. The aim is that when public look at the engraving they not only see the old building or a scene, but they remember that previous Ourense and compare it to the city that we [do not] have now, not to mourn its destruction, but to foster a change in the urbanization process that has prevailed for long time in many of our cities.

By studying these prints, we notice again that the historical-political orientation directs the line and determines the balance between representation and evocation. Again,  what see does not seem “realistic” and we preceive a double deformation, because engravings do not show the city as it is now or was before. Let’s see the engraving corresponding to Praza do Ferro, it does not provide a real picture if we think about the current location, because it omits the alterations and changes that colapsed or renovated many buildings and places. Given these conditions, the engravings are silent, expressing the negative part of progress by the lack [ie, the plastic silence resulting from the gaps we notice in some drawings and the contrast that emerges when we mentally face a recorder scene and the current reality]. Nor does engravings seems realistic when interpreted according to the past because, as we saw in the series of birds, all the detaills we associate whith historical replicas or tourist guides are not shown. The composition of the engravings is not academic or tourist, but a complex convergence of intellect and feeling. It is like when looking at them we perceived the plazas, churches, buildings in different dimensions: the lack of precision [or deformation] of the line prevented us from academic knowledge, or merely documented, about the city, but revealed other deformities, reminding us a past that was deformed and the deformation itself that exists now. As the grotesque distortion based on mirrors that Max Estrella explains in Luces de Bohemia based mirrors, in fron of [or within] a deformed reality, the artistic deformation is the only real answer truly active, since it does not arise from reflecting what surrounds the artist, but from animpulse or rectification for a straight and healthy aesthetic experience.

All of which brings us back directly to our original consideration of the value of engraving and the advertisement, promising the sale of eternally valuable works of art. The conflict between this offer and Conde Corbal’s intentions must be obvious:  in all his engravings, both those based on the work of Valle-Inclán an those featuring the birds of Galicia, the value of the engravings does not reside in the work of art as an object but in the experience of the spectator. And it is the experience -not the engraving itself- that is the starting point from which any consideration on his work must begin. Well, for Conde Corbal, artistic work has value only when the eye that sees it experience a form, a possible revaluation when unexpectedly looking at a scene or a situation that is altered, valued from a new perspective. It is worth going one step further: if the value of the engraving is determined by the quality of experience that the eye has, has nothing to do with commercial investment, and letting to fall into the contemporary desire for engravings as an “original” work of art is to radically distort the original purpose of this artistic medium as a pictorial image that -by definition- is repeated, shared. The announcement in The New york Times indicates that the value of the engraving has been diverted almost completely and thus clashes with the restoration effort of Conde Corbal, whose engravings doubly return us to the original intention: they draw our attention to the image, to “engraving” purely ans somultaneously devalue engravings as art objects. Action that implies another aspect of artistic value because Conde Corbal as an individual has the courage to neglect his work in the commercial sense.

This is evidenced in the same process that he uses to make it possible for the engravings to be reproduced in “Offset” so that they are accessible to the public that composes them, to the Galician public that is represented in his work. This technical process is possible because Conde Corbal invested his artistic work, not in the individual reproducction of a numbered series of originals, but in perfecting a cliché that allows, at economical prices, an infinite number of identical prints to come off the press.

It is challenge worthy of Don Ramón himself, since it is a great risk to trust almost everything the value of an engraving to its visual experience, also trying to ensure that the experience is diverted by the medium in which it is reproduced…it is as if Conde Corbal had taken to the letter some words of Don Estrafalario that close the epilogue of Los cuernos de Don Friolera. Previously in the prologue, Don Estrafalario affirmed that only the spontaneous and totally oral “tragedy” of compadre Fidel has artistic value; he insisted that the printing press was a demonic invention and now he asks Don Manolito to buy the romance of the blind man so that they burn it and thus destroy the irresponsible repetition of “bad literature”. The answer given by Conde Corbal agrees with Don Estrafalario’s feeling, although it is obvious that he cannot return the engraving to an image as “pure” as the oral representation of bulubú, since the visual image requires a tangible medium. What can be done is what Conde Corbal tries in these engravings and that is to make fun of the printing press through his own use. He makes use of the machine and the need to reproduce an object to allow for collective recognition, but he does everthing possible to prevent that object from becoming the end in exchange for the means of aesthetic experience.

The painter cannot burn the paper, but he ensures that the vision is not being sold as a commercial investment.

In conclusion, I want to end these notes by raising some questions. As I indicated at the beginning o the essay, I tried to explain Conde Corbal’s aesthetics in exchange for valuing it, because I think that before measuring an aesthetic work, it is necessary to establish the measure.  That is , if as the painter Josef Albers said, the measure of art is the ratio between effort [or intention] and fact, these must be articulated before judging their proportion. Regardin Conde Corbal’s engravings, we are still in the process of defining them and it is too early to make assessments. However, it seems possible and necessary to notice some possible paradoxes or questions that his work raises. It is worth underlining Valle-Inclán’s principles once again and insisting on the precise and demanding balance they require. [Requirement suggested several times by Don Ramón himself. I am thinking, for example, of the prologue to La media Noche, or the following words of a fragmente of La rosa de papel, where the author calls for the promotion of “a cruel and poetic disagreement, perhaps an inaccessible aesthetic category ]. We should also remember that working with such precarious principles makes perception very difficult because any deviation can impede the experience and recognition that the artist wishes to make possible.

I think that the assessment of Conde Corbal’s engravings will have to take place in this “valleinclanesco” context, always attentive to his purpose of reforming the Galician gaze through a new confrontation with his own being. And when measuring this confrontation, it will be necessary to take into account the factors that define the eye as it currently exists, especially their lack of familiarity with art and their scarce economic resources to buy them. From the converstions I had about these engravings in Spain and in the United States, I imagine that the critical discussion will be based on these Galician considerations, because when I discuss Conde Corbal’s work with others, the conversation is almost always the same and generally focusses on two issues: technique and deformation. The question of technique addresses the distanced position that Conde Corbal assumes in front of engraving as an object; it will be necessary to see more the reaction of the people to the “cheap” engraving and to comment on the possibility (or impossibility) of creating spiritual value through the absence of economic value. In addition it will be necessary to delve into the technical process of the engravings to determine the relationship between the great care that Conde Corbal puts into the cliché and his lack of participation in the reproduction process [a process that for many involves the artist’s participation in all the steps of the engraving process.

The second question addresses the balance between reproductive (or realistic)  accuracy of the line and creative deformation. To achieve the recognition that Conde Corbal seeks, the balance between representation and distortion is precarious. For some the engravings are so far removed from representation that they threaten, if not prevent recognition. In the case of birds, for example, the possibility of their “gestalt” rests on a certain detail of precision and lacking this element of information is lost. Thus, the rigidity of the encyclopedia is avoided, but one can fall into vagueness or impressionism. This danger is specially pertinent when the public to which the engravings are directed is not very “sophisticated” from the point of view of graphic view. If there is too much twist and a certain standard of plausiblility is lacking, the public may reject the work as abstract or unfamiliar.

These are complex questions that involve not only taste but also ideology. Commenting on them will require a contentious but pleasurable process, for a detailed  study of Conde Corbal’s engravings will reveal a wealth of visual experiences. If, in addition to promoting an intensified Galician consciousness, they also promote an aesthetic discussion, so much the better. His work deserves this attention and we must thank Conde Corbal for the new concept of the image and the opportunity to comment on it within the current Galician reality.