IN THE INTIMACY OF THE STUDIO
Alicia & Javier CHillida
Is sea, sea, only sea. No coasts, no rocks, Only wind and sea. Wind and sea.
Only wind and sea.
This exhibition is an initial retrospective outline of the work by Gonzalo Chillida. It uses the intimacy of the space of the ganbara del Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea to present
The works in this exhibition show the tension between the two scales on which Gonzalo Chillida’s painting slides: micro and macro. This is where he shows his personal view of nature, which brings broad views into minimal pictorial spaces, combining them with a magnification of the smallest detail of the landscape blown up into a large canvas. Thus, we could think of what scientists refer to as a ‘fractal dimension’.2, a new image in the entirety composed of a hidden natural order capable of revealing more of the ways in which regularity and stability, in that order, can come from underlying turbulence and chance.
In 1965 Gonzalo Chillida collaborates on the book by Juan Ramón Jiménez, El Nuevo Mar, with the publisher Rafael Casariego: ‘Chillida returned with several sketches and started his prints for the book. How many did he discard? I don’t think he will know. Each time he started his work on a new stone, he conceived the sea with fewer visual references but with more tectonic characters and, paradoxically, as the sea lost specific elements and meaning, it gained in rhythm, freedom and feeling and its marks fused together in a reality of illusion; with each new test, he undid the notion of time and form to get closer and closer to the absoluteness of the sea’3.
For Antonio Saura, despite their small size,some of Gonzalo Chillida’s work gives observers the impression of looking at much larger pieces, finding a whole range of situations in a larger space, which, in principle, can be prolonged in every sense. ‘As if the images we see were nothing more than a fragment of a much greater plastic phenomenon, allowing the eyes (and even forcing them) to continue their course beyond the limits of the picture. However, this space, occupied by elements that are transparent, light and vaporous, is constructed and paradoxically organised because, under its fluent, random appearance, there is genuine underlying composition and it is held up by an invisible structure. In the sands, the reference to reality is never explicit, always the sea, sky, sand - a seascape transformed into a mental scenario.’4-*. As is true of oriental art, Chillida approaches painting as if the imprecision and mist, which is there to be seen, were the only way of transmitting his passion for nature, avoiding views that are clear or direct.
During his life, Gonzalo Chillida avoided speaking about his work in public. However, in a text that has been recently discovered, he argues: ‘I am a great nature-lover. The colours and mists that can be seen in my paintings actually exist in our countryside, even though I sometimes idealise them and they do not correspond to reality and become abstract painting. I find the sea particularly attractive. I never wanted to live life without seeing it. This does not mean that I am impressed only by this landscape; I also like Castile, with its greys, ochres and red lands, its sea- like plains’.5* This is the idea that leads Miguel Zugaza to describe Chillida, in his generation, as ‘the first abstract artist to paint landscapes’.6 Gabriel Celaya writes about an easy Impressionist interpretation of these paintings, describing them as metaphysical insofar as they reveal the cosmic solitude of the being. ‘On this level, the differences between abstract and figuration no longer make sense. What is now important is the physiognomy of the universe in every order, in other words, those manifestations of the being that go beyond figuration which we say we understand when all they actually do is refer us to something they are not’.7.
Chilida admired the field of colour and strength of Rothko’s works, the intensity and dispossession of Tàpies, the sobriety of the last coastal landscapes by Braque. And the freedom and brushstrokes of Goya, always Goya... With Monet, another of the artists he admired, he was concerned at the end of his life by what he referred to as the ‘instantaneities’. Nature was thus perceived in its atomisation. In his later years, he painted the pond in his Giverny garden time and time again, water landscapes that reproduce the watercourse itself and a horizon with no borders. He said that he merely obeyed instinct ‘because I have rediscovered the huge powers of intuition, which I allow to take over in my work, and so I have been able to identify myself with the created world and lose myself in it’.8. The microscopic view finds an unstable world of metamorphosis, an insatiable search for that natural instant in which sensation is prolonged. This legacy of a near-blind painter was to be essential for the artists of the second half of the 20th century.
In parallel with the painting, Gonzalo Chillida takes an exhaustive selection of photographs that make up a huge atlas of landscapes, comprising thousands of pictures, of which a small portion are being shown to the public for the first time. The photographs taken with his analogical Leica camera from the 1950s and developed by hand all respond to a specific, recurring view that looks to capture in an instant an atmospheric quality or optimal framing. He occasionally creates photomontages to obtain a broader or panoramic view and develop long series with variations of the same motif at almost the same moment in time. At times, photography becomes the base or main subject of his paintings.
In the year 2000, Gonzalo (our father) worked with the architect Xabier Unzurrunzaga on the project for
the church of Benta-Berri, where he painted the mural in the apse on site in collaboration with his son, Juan Chillida. Egunsentia/Dawn, the title of the work, is a recurring motif in
2- J. Y. BRIGGS.; F. D. PEAT, Fractales, p. 18, Ed. Digital, 2000.
3- Rafael PÉREZ DELGADO, Juan Ramón Jiménez, El Nuevo Mar, numbered and signed edition, 189 copies with 11 prints by Gonzalo Chillida, Col. Tiempo para la Alegría, Ed. R. Díaz Casariego, Madrid, 1965.
4- Antonio SAURA, El mar de Gonzalo Chillida, Galería Elvira González, Madrid, 1994 *.
5- Chillida Ameztoy Archive, Author’s manuscript, n.t./ n.d.
6- Miguel ZUGAZA, Presentation of the book Gonzalo Chillida. Pintura, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2006.
7- Gabriel CELAYA, Gonzalo Chillida, Galería Theo, Madrid, 1979*
8- Daniel WILDESTEIN,Claude Monet, biography and itemised catalogue, vol. IV, Lausanne-Paris, 1985.
9- Francisco CALVO SERRALLER,Pintar al límite, Ed. Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao, 1989*.
* Compiled and referenced in the book Gonzalo Chillida. Pintura, Ed. A. Chillida - TF Editores, Madrid, 2006.