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Understanding space

Throughout his career the Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida has studied and drawn hands -- his own strong ones most frequently. He sees answers in them to problems of mass in space. "Hatzapar" ("claw" in Basque) is a recent sculpture of a hand. Typically, the object, dynamic yet calm and welcoming, is built around an area of peace.

Chillida, having the utmost respect for the material with which he is working , pushes it to extremes in order to learn what responses to expect from the suggestions he makes. His first materials, plaster and stone, were abandoned for a time because they were, to him, capable only of interpreting volume not able to create forms which denied their own densities; they invaded and inhabited space.

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A long dialogue with iron followed, during which his art tended toward the abstract. In the forge, sensing the possibilities of iron to penetrate and direct space, Chillida took advantage of the metal's ductile quality and worked it vigorously in a struggle that lasted several years. By this time he had been acknowledged one of the great international sculptors.

EVentually, he reached the limits of iron and decided reluctantly that it could not express the concepts to which he was more and more attracted. Chillida looked around for a material suitable to his growing need. Wood seemed to say, "I am what you are looking for."

Not to be tempted by beautifully patterned grains, he utilized the most neutral available. With it, he designed plans that reflected his early architectural yearnings, levaing eloquet empty interior spaces. Soon he succeeded in carrying his ideas over to granite, alabaster, marble, concrete.

Chillida now concerns himself with certain vital spaces: that filled by sculpture which also holds within itself another space, empty, weightless, but heavy with importance. Chillida considers this void the very heart and presence of the sculpture.

Habitual equations have been inverted. The granite "AbestiGogora" in Houston , Texas, belies its actual weight of fifty tons; cowboys say it prances, air pilots that it is getting ready for a take-off. The sculptures in alabaster exalt the glorious light that apparently originates and irradiates from inside the translucent stone.

In such an equivocal universe, steel would inevitably find its way. More malleable than iron, it can regulate space or increase volume while allowing large or small voids for airy occupation.

Chillida has found it necessary to stay constantly on the alert for he realizes there is only one short step between experience and virtuosity. "When I know how to make something, it is because I have already made it. There remains to me to make what I don't know how to make to learn in doing." He never concentrates on a precise form or idea, depending greatly on the collaboration of the material, guided by what he calls the "aroma."

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Aware of how the changing light of day and its mysterious shadows intensify spatial effects, Chillida is particularly gratified when his work is placed in a sculpture garden or in a city square. There the figures wax and grow stronger, relating their art to other art, as well as to landscapes, or humans.

Chillida has again been awarded the Mellon prize in the Carnegie International series. For The Monitor he has made the following statement:

"I work in order to understand; my art is a part of my understanding. I expect to work, or, better, always to question because never is one's knowledge enough; in the known there is still hidden the notknown.

"The processes that things follow, in passing from one state to another, fascinate me. My amazement before what I do not understand is my master. The desire to experiment in order to know often causes me to follow an erratic course. Is this because experimentation interests me more than experience -- just as I prefer the to-know to the known?

"Space I try to comprehend, not just utilize. I believe limitation is its definition; similarly, the present, another limitation, defines time. Is it not the non-dimension of the present that makes life possible? As the non-dimension of the point makes geometry possible?

"Summing it up: disorientation is decisive for an artist, for it makes him search for orientation."


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