FH [Fernando Huici]: In any case, from an immediate contemplation of your piece, the illusion is that of a very strict geometry.
EC [Eduardo Chillida]: Yes. But, afterwards, you see it more slowly, you move around it, you get yourself inside, you look upwards and behind you and it’s not so much as it seemed. However, it does keep a sort of rigour, of simplicity, which is what I thought it should have. The others would have been richer.
FH: Finally, the impression you get is that of approaching regularity as well as escaping from it at the same time.
EC: Well, I should say that’s just like me. I’ve never wanted to fall into what one would call the greater rules; I find them all too dangerous. I believe one has to approach such things, but never fall into them. The right angle, for instance: I detest it. For all my life I have worked close to the right angle, and have fallen into it but in exceptional occasions, and for a reason I have mentioned frequently, at that. I already have a slight experience though I mistrust experiences which are too conservative; I believe mostly in perception, which is progressive; it’s time, in any case, what tells me that you’re lost, if you use a right angle in a formal dialogue within space. All your answers seem to be given in right angles. That’s what happened to Mondrian; he managed to solve the problem quite uniquely, but there is no need to go further: it’s all been said.
Curiously, however, if you value perfection as a limit to the right angle but know the gradual strength that an angle acquires as it approaches its 90 degrees—whether coming or going—you find an answer range of action that we could situate between 87 and 95 degrees, all of them practicable. Personally, this is something I have never measured previously, but subsequently. Much of my work is done through intuition and, afterwards, I sometimes reach for a tape measure and check what I’ve done. However, I rely much more on eye and sensibility. Even though, there have been times when I have decided to check, and my angles usually range between 87 and 95 degrees. Sometimes, even nearer the right angle. There you have a zone in which I can use angles which will produce much richer results than the right one. Logically, an angle is not a limit, something actually blocked and unmovable, which makes answers ever so fertile.
Deep inside, I’m more and more convinced that my works suffer from an infinity of errors which compensate each other. I sincerely believe that is my work. Additionally, it shows another characteristic which many people have not yet observed: it is a sort of rebellion against gravity. From the beginning until today, I’ve found myself confronted with this question in
all approaches I may have made along my career. I faced it from the very start, with those pieces that moved and had three fulcrums, which means wishing to get a real support, acknowledging gravity as a fact. Later on came sculptures suspended from concrete, tables… all are projects related to antigravity, to not accepting Newton, so to say.
So, if you want to do that, you cannot escape weight, but have to accept it. How can you speak about weight if you rebel against it, if you don’t take it into account? Absurd. All the above has led me to a work which is quite complicated to expose, among other things. However, I consider it coherent, given what I can do. The same thing happens with the dialectics between “empty” and “full.” If “full” is not filled, there is an inner dead space that spoils everything, no matter how well it may be constructed. This is what forces me to make pieces be what they are, which bring problems: I can’t always expose them… but, well, that’s how it goes!
FH: However, do all works call for their own materials?
EC: Yes, I think so. Every work calls for a certain material. The relationship with materials is basic. I’m not speaking about the alleged relation with craftsmanship which some people have attributed to me. I am no craftsman, but quite the contrary. I respect craftsmen deeply, of course, but I’ve got nothing in common with them for a simple reason: a craftsman is a man who improves his works through repetition, which is not my case. I always keep out of what is known, and there is something I wrote once which defines it all perfectly well: “I prefer to know rather than knowledge itself.” The craftsman, in turn, will rather have it the other way, which is where craftsmanship’s wisdom lies: in knowledge. Not in my case. I have nothing of that. A different thing is my profound respect for materials. Materials teach us a great deal of things. Or, rather, matter, because the word “material” has an ugly ring to it. Matter is an important part of the cosmos, and the universe, and man. We ourselves are built of matter, which is something very important we should never forget. In my work, I’ve also come upon some unexplainable and undemonstrable intuitions. I’ve mentioned it frequently.
Through them, I’ve sometimes thought that between full and empty, between solid and hollow, there is more than just a difference in density— which is what we obviously perceive—but a difference in speed as well.
In other words: even if I am unable to prove it, I’m convinced that space is a very fast matter whilst other matters are all more or less slow in comparison. Space is the quickest thing of all those that surround us; it’s like the spirit, right? I mean, it’s like if everything that plays a role in the sculpture—that is, both space and the element you are making, even as a eulogy of space, as a eulogy of the horizon—should be composed of the same matter, only with a different speed.
FH: I don’t think a physical theory would be much different…
EC: I don’t know. I know very little about physics; but I perceive things, I’ve perceived things, I’ve perceived them through my work and, as I’ve said before, I’ve determined they do not result from experience. I have little faith in experience. I believe experience is too conservative to bear it in mind. On the other hand, perception is important. Perception grows with your work, with your efforts. Perception actually grows. My sight is not as good as it used to be, you see, but somehow I see better. I must use glasses, but I see better. My eyes are worse, but I see better; my ears are worse, but I hear better. That’s as curious as it is positive, because you start to lose your abilities: you are not as agile or as strong as you used to be, you start losing your hair, well, all those things that happen once you reach your old age… However, in that sense, in a perceptive way, I’m still growing. Nowadays, when I draw, the very contact of the pencil with the paper tells me if I’ll be able to do something worthwhile. That didn’t happen before: before, I had to do it and then, after a few hours or a day, I would decide what to keep and what to throw away. Now I know it practically from the beginning, and this is not experience, but perception.
CHILLIDA, Eduardo; HUICI, Fernando: “Palabras, caminos en torno al Elogio del horizonte y otras esculturas públicas = Words and ways about Eulogy of the Horizon and other public sculptures.” In: Elogio del horizonte = Eulogy of Horizon. Oviedo: Progreso Editorial, 1990 [excerpts].
Published in Zóbel-Chillida. Criscrossing paths Barcelona, 2019. Mayoral p.43-45
Eduardo Chillida working in the studio of Hans Spinner, Grasse, 1990. Photo: Hans Spinner