Considered one of the most important innovators of twentieth century art in Galicia, Luis Seoane developed a constant study of language and formal representation in painting.
The work Octopus and Jug (oil on canvas, 55×75 cm., 1961) represents an abstract composition in which the juxtaposition of geometric planes made in intense range of warm colors, oranges, reds and yellows contrast with the strong black; the colors serve as background to the schematic representation of two objects, an octopus and a pitcher, silhouetted in black lines.
“Seoane’s Galicia was a mythical Galicia. He knew it like no one else in history.”
The creation of this canvas was produced in a year of vital importance in the evolution of Seoane’s art, as it coincides with the completion of major works that allude to the tradition and history of Galicia, mainly represented by women. As art expert Muzzle Valeriano notes, the author experienced between 1954 and 1961 a period of stylistic research which shows the influence of various artists such as Picasso, Léger, Equipo 57 or informalist movement that by then had gained notoriety in the Spanish artistic scene of the time, represented by authors such as Millares or Tapiès.
The author defines his style: “I look for my expression through a flat painting of sharp contrasts of color and an overlapping spontaneous graphic. The color, drawing and great rhythms are for me nothing more than a means of expression, I seek a painting that has its greatest strength in the syncretism of the elements with which I make. I do not try to make clean painting, but to escape from any kind of textures that distract the intensity in each hue.”
Seoane continued his stylistic evolution and it is was joined by a true abstraction, always combined with imagination, each time more fragmented, as shown in this work, but delving thematically in nationalism, with a clear departure from costumbrismo. Therefore, Galician themes took center stage in his creations, recreating the customs, clothing or professions but always from the novel perspective of his style. And it is in this creative scene where an animal so characteristically Galician such as the octopus belongs, represented on many occasions throughout his artwork and through various techniques.
Basilio Losada remembers how the painter addressed the Galician theme: “Seoane’s Galicia was a mythical Galicia. He knew it like no one else in history, studying the stones—his love of petroglyphs, the Romanesque reliefs—transmitted orally from century to century. A magical, untouched, mysterious Galicia, insane counts, Jews and Christians, occultist bishops and pilgrims that walked towards Death”.
Thus, the expert María Victoria Carballo-Calero said, during the decade of the 60s, the author tirelessly recreated a popular culture that thrives on myths and legends which always fascinated him. And it is precisely in this context that Seoane represented several drying octopus in the mid-60s, which Carballo-Calero described as “spooky”, making compositions whose meaning is difficult to decipher, keeping the viewer intrigued.
Text translated from Fundación María José Jove