Peixe-Lúa, an emblematic painting by Menchu Lamas from 1982—one of the most important years of the decade for several reasons—was first shown as part of the group exhibition 26 pintores, 13 críticos in Madrid. The show brought together several young artists who were on the rise (Barceló, Broto, Campano, Patiño, Sevilla, Sicilia, etc.). For Lamas this was particularly important, because it coincided with her first solo exhibition at the Buades gallery. Along with other exhibitions, such as Madrid 1980 (1979), Madrid DF (1980) or those of the “Atlántica” collective (Baiona and Santiago de Compostela, 1980 and 1983, respectively), they were decisive in constructing the narrative of a generation that was free to experiment and take action for the first time in the wake of the dictatorship. Several Galician artists incorporated primitivist references to a mythical past—full of fragmented and subjective allusions to cave painting, popular Romanesque art or rural legends—into their work. These played a crucial role in giving their discourse a unique identity and differentiating it from the work of other artists, who came from different contexts, within the recently created state of autonomous regions. The dialectic between “tradition and modernity” established itself as one of the main conceptual concerns of the decade, resulting in numerous works of art and explorations that attempted to represent or record the traces of a disappearing, agrarian culture, overpowered by the explosive force of newly arrived material progress. The work Menchu Lamas created during the early eighties serves as a perfect example of this situation. Focusing on Peixe-Lúa specifically, one finds a composition marked by precise, schematic allusions to the aforementioned symbolic terrain. The artist brings together a fish and the moon to create a powerful, iconic image that takes up the entire picture plane, defining its structure yet pushing to go beyond its boundaries. Figuration and abstraction dissolve into each other in an expressive format where archetypal silhouettes emerge from the contrast between perfectly delimited and chromatically complementary areas (red, blue and green), achieved through the application of countless glazes. The influence of action painting is present in the spontaneous, energetic visual expressivity and gesture, which provide a record of the marks left by the artist’s body during the creative process. The artist’s affinity for comic book art and graffiti also makes its presence felt. Finally, the amalgam of the fish and the moon brings a liquid, maritime world to the spectator’s mind, which in some cultures is associated with the woman and the feminine.
Pedro de Llano