José Escada (1934-1980) Untitled, 1973. Oil on canvas. 55.5 x 38 cm. Inv. 83P1010



With its complex symbolism, presented as a variation on the theme of “knots”, the balls and skeins that José Escada created in the early 1970s, this work is similar in form to the “S” monogram painting, also in the Modern Collection, in terms of the concept of an ornamental vocabulary applied to a unique pattern module. This mysterious module is like a conglomeration of intricate meanings, a secret alphabet emerging from nebulous, primordial chaos: a symmetrical and stylised “8”, with handles or ears, designed like a lock, gourd or fleuron, with a single oval-shaped point of light at the base of the painting. The two colours – black and dark green – further reinforce the enigmatic vision of a solitary ornament, rusted and blackened by the passage of time.

Thus, the painting has the appearance of an element from an ancient piece of writing. The oval-shaped interior, with its contrasting black and pale yellow hues, forms a shell with flames or corrugations. This shell is the source of heat and light, a recipient or furnace that can be transfigured into the fingers of an open hand, the solitary, alert member that José Escada depicted on numerous occasions. Tapered fingers in shafts or tongues of fire, from whose combustion (or use in the case of the hand) an imaginary emblem was born. This attribute is completed in the upper part of the image by a swastika with curved arms, rotating around an axis. Merging into a semi-circle and a lozenge, this swastika evokes an ancient sun symbolism that pays homage to the cyclical renewal of life forms.

Ana Filipa Candeias


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Updated on 22 july 2016

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