Eduardo Chillida and the architectural dimension of his sculpture, the transcendence of space and time lifestyle
Interview with Luis Chillida, Chairman of the Eduardo Chillida Foundation in Chillida-Leku, Hernani, Basque Country.
Eduardo Chillida is one of the greatest Spanish artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Hauser & Wirth, the Swiss art gallery, took over his work two years ago and has undertaken to reopen Chillida-Leku, a site (Leku in Basque) where a good number of his works are on display and which can be considered a work of art in itself, integrating landscape, art and architecture.
Luis Chillida, the artist’s son, is currently Chairman of the Chillida Foundation and spoke to us in Chillida-Leku talking about the re-opening of the project under new management, headed by expert director of cultural projects, Mireia Massagué. We also spoke to architect Luis Laplace, who has renovated the common spaces, such as the Pilar Belzunce exhibition hall and the cafeteria. The new gardens have been designed by one of the great landscape architects of our time, Piet Oudolf, creator of the High Line Gardens in New York.
Eduardo Chillida biographical notes
The sculptor was born in San Sebastian in 1924. In 1947 he began a degree in architecture but dropped out so that he could devote all his energy to sculpture. He moved to Paris to see the work of artists such as Brancusi at close quarters.
Back in Spain, in the Basque Country, he discovered the secrets of forging and iron with the help of Manuel Illarramendi, with whom he created his first abstract sculpture, Ilarik (Stele) in 1951. It was a prelude to his later work, which, from that moment, centred on space, emptiness, matter and scale. He began to exhibit in New York, Paris, Milan and Madrid and took part in a number of well-known international events, including the Venice Biennale and Kassel Documenta.
From 1960, he began experimenting with different materials, such as wood and steel. He created his first works using them exclusively and in 1963 he went on an inspirational trip to Greece, leading to the production of his first alabaster pieces in the Elogio de la luz (In Praise of Light) series. This Hellenic inspiration, combined with his perception of space and light, gave rise to his famous unfinished work of gigantic proportions on Mount Tindaya in Fuerteventura.
In 1971, he began working with steel and created a number of works with this material. Lugar de encuentros III (Meeting Place III), produced in the same year, was the first, followed by others some years later. During this period Eduardo Chillida brought out a series on which he had been working for more than fifteen years: El peine del viento (The Comb of the Wind), one of his best-known works worldwide. It comprises several pieces, one of which is in Chillida-Leku.
In the eighties and nineties, he continued working with steel and concrete and in 1999 the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao marked his 75th birthday with an exhibition paying tribute to him. More than 200 works were on display, providing an interesting retrospective of his life as an artist. A year later, Eduardo Chillida founded the Chillida-Leku project with the aim of disseminating his work.
He died in 2002 at the age of 78. His work is undoubtedly one of the most important manifestations of sculpture worldwide and his mystical, ethical and transcendental conceptions of human existence will always be with us.