Eduardo Chillida / by Raji Radhakrishnan

 Eduardo Chillida

Eduardo Chillida

What do you think of when you see a work of art? Or how do you react? When I walk through a museum or gallery my emotions tend to run the whole gamut. Everything from no reaction to "whoa" to complete entrancement. Of all these emotional reactions, I don't recall stepping back and thinking "strength" or "strong and masculine" as I have when seeing the Spanish artist, Eduardo Chillida's (1924-2002) work. Mind you I'm not looking at sculptures or paintings of men flexing their muscles or torsos with six packs here. These are modern art. I want to say abstract but I'm afraid the artist may not like that. So, let's just call it "Modern Compositions" for now.

I first discovered Eduardo Chillida's work in a small art gallery in Munich, Germany. It was a collection of black and white lithographs. Compositions in black and white is nothing new, in fact, it is one of the oldest type of works in modern art and are part of nearly every major artist's work till date. But there was something very strong about these compositions that made me ask the gallerist more about them and eventually buy them. As I explored Chillida's works, I realized most described his work as having movement and tension. And that is true. But, for me the one word that comes to mind is still Strength. Perhaps, it has something to do with his early works in clay while in France and how he associated clay with the white light of Greek sculptures and they eventually manifested in his hands as re-interpretations in a stronger material and in a more undefinable form.

An artist who not only studied art but also architecture, Chillida's most famous and celebrated works are monumental outdoor sculptures made in steel and concrete but he also worked beautifully with so many other materials including alabaster, wood, clay, gypsum, bronze, felt and of course hand made paper. Some of his stone sculptures seem almost primitive yet are so modern it reminds me of advanced intelligence. Think Fifth Element (I love that movie). My favorite among Chillida's works is "The Basque Liberties Plaza", 1980, reinforced concrete and steel. I think that might be because it reminds me of a different time and place - my grand father and his home where I spent much of my childhood. More on that later...but for now, I'm happy just rediscovering this artist whose work I relate to at so many levels and I think a trip to the Basque Country side is very much in order.

I hope you have an inspired Monday morning! - xo Raji

Photos from Flickr and Pinterest

 Chillida modeling a clay sculpture in 1973; Photography by  Ernst Scheidegger

Chillida modeling a clay sculpture in 1973; Photography by Ernst Scheidegger

 El Peine del Viento (Wind Comb), a public space in San Sebastian

El Peine del Viento (Wind Comb), a public space in San Sebastian

 "The Basque Liberties Plaza", 1980, reinforced concrete and steel.

"The Basque Liberties Plaza", 1980, reinforced concrete and steel.

 A painted clay sculpture, 1973 - Photography by  Ernst Scheidegger

A painted clay sculpture, 1973 - Photography by Ernst Scheidegger