Interview by Xabier Irujo
How did you start studying Navarrese Medieval paintings?
I was at a Aranzadi Society of Science workshop in 2014 in the village of Gallipienzo (Navarre) when I learned about the paintings for the first time. The workshop was called Erdi Aroko mugak Nafarroan (Middle Ages borders in Navarre), and it focused on archeology and history for university students. Then, I was studying art history at the university of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), and I already had several courses about Medieval art and iconography.
The church of San Salvador, where part of the paintings are, was being restored at that time with scaffoldings. Thanks to the permission of the mayor, Carmele Iriguibel, I could visit the paintings with some other students, and took good detail photos of them.
Later, back at the university, I started studying these paintings (lineal gothic style paintings painted around 1360-1380), because they were not studied deep enough, and finally I turned the project into the TFG (final degree paper), under the guidance of Soledad de Silva y Verastegui, Professor of Medieval Iconography.
Why is it relevant to study these paintings, and what is their artistic significance?
Well, in the case of San Salvador de Gallipienzo paintings, there is a double problem. First, part of the paintings, the ones in better condition, were striped off the walls in 1949 with special techniques, and moved to the Museo de Navarra in Pamplona. The rest of the paintings, which were in worse condition, were “abandoned” in the church. These paintings were barely studied, always under the higher quality wall paintings of the same period from Pamplona and Olite, capitals of the old Kingdom of Navarre.
When I studied the paintings I realized that it is important to study them as a whole, not fragmented, or decontextualized from the source. Also, it is important to give the same importance to all the artistic and historical heritage, regardless of their beauty or importance, and focus on the small villages as well, not only on the capitals or cities.
You published a book last year on this topic. Can you tell us about it?
After finishing the final degree paper about the topic, I kept researching about these paintings, trying to publish it in some academic journal. Then, in 2016, when I was an intern in the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, I thought of the possibility of publishing the research as a book with Ekin, the Argentina based Basque publishing house since 1942. After almost two years of work it turned into a beautiful 200-page book with a lot of pictures, which makes it very helpful for an art history book.
What are your next projects? Are you planning to write a new book?
Right now, I am curating a temporary exhibition in the Carlism Museum in Lizarra-Estella, Navarre. The exhibition will feature how the Carlist movement was pictured in cinema. I think it could be very interesting, because most of the times historical cinema doesn´t reflect historical reality. Rather, it reflects the spirit of the time when the film was shot, creating myths to justify the present.