Interview with Luis Chillida

05.10.2017

Luis Chillida: Every Human Belongs to a Place

Many sculptures by the Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) are located internationally in public spaces. The most impressive ones are in San Sebastián, his hometown. The Chillida Leku Museum, his private property, can be found slightly outside of the city in Hernani and was founded in 2000. It houses 150 works and includes the artist’s studio as well as a sculpture garden. A 16th century farmhouse has been converted and appears archaic yet contemporary at the same time. Today, one of Eduardo Chillida's eight children – Luis Chillida – maintains the artist’s estate. When we enquired a visit during our stay with Where About Now in San Sebastián in September 2018 we couldn't resist asking Luis Chillida the following questions:

The very well known Peine del Viento (Wind Comb) sculptures from 1977 are located at La Concha beach in San Sebastián. What kind of role did the sea play for Eduardo Chillida?

My father was born on the 10th of January, 1924 in San Sebastián, a town located on the coast. He would always recall the stormy weather of that day. Since he was a child, his favorite place was the “Tennis Promenade” where the “Peine del Viento” is now located. He frequently visited this place to observe it, think about the horizon, and ask himself where the waves came from.

© WAN

Is there a certain interrelationship between him and this city?

Without any doubt, he thought that every human belongs to a certain place and his place was this city.

After a period of living in Madrid and Paris he returned in 1951 to San Sebastián and stayed there the rest of his life. What made him stay?

When he came back from Paris he searched for inspiration in one’s heart and found it here, in the relationship with his place, his light, which he named “dark light”, his landscape, the sea, and the iron as a material that had been worked on that land for centuries.

Museo Chillida-Leku, Hernani. Archives Eduardo Chillida Photography Iñigo Santiago
Museo Chillida-Leku, Hernani. Archives Eduardo Chillida Photography Iñigo Santiago
Museo Chillida-Leku, Hernani. Archives Eduardo Chillida Photography Iñigo Santiago

Eduardo Chillida himself initiated the property with the country house and the sculpture garden. One intention was to introduce his work to a broader audience. Was he also curious to meet visitors in person?

Since he bought these pieces of land in 1983, this was his working place in a very broad sense. On one corner was his atelier to work the stone, however his real job was to create his place (leku– Basque for place) in the world, in relation to the country house, the forests, and meadows surrounding him. There were always many people who came to visit us not only to look at the works, but to experience the environment as a whole.

The scholar Michel de Certeau claimed in The Practice of Everyday Life that walking produces social space (putting ourselves in relation to the surrounding). Is there something similar happening with people who wander through the garden?

I think so. My father defined his intention for this place by saying what he wanted was for people to walk by here as if they were in a forest and that his works were part of it.

Which kind of people visit the museum today?

Nowadays we allow visitors to enter the place by appointment only. All kinds of people with a genuine interest contact us and it is very pleasant to see how they enjoy the visit, some of them on their own and others with private tours.

Museo Chillida-Leku, Hernani. Archives Eduardo Chillida Photography Iñigo Santiago

What would Eduardo Chillida say if he saw today’s visitors walking through his hideaway while documenting with their smartphones?

He did not know these kinds of technologies, but he was very tolerant and it would not have mattered to him.

Do recipients also leave something behind, or do they only take in your opinion?

I think both are true. On one hand, they get a unique experience and they leave us with a very pleasant sensation of gratefulness and comprehension of the beauty that art is.

Do you travel?

I love travelling and adventure above all else. For many years I have been a race driver and racing motorist off-road and have traveled much of Africa and South America. Due to my job, I also frequently travel to the places where the work of my father is being shown. I also like to travel with my family to the Menorca Island to rest. I love to return to San Sebastián though...This city is my place in the world.

When we come back to San Sebastián, at some point in the future, will we find you and the museum here?

This is our job and we hope that Chillida-Leku will still exist. I have no doubt that the trace of Chillida in his town will last. I do not think that there is a better place to live.

The last artistic vision by Eduardo Chillida remains unrealised. His idea was to build caves in a mountain on the island of Fuerteventura. What is this supposed to mean?

The “Tindaya” Project is a wonderful utopia. My father was interested in the vacuum generated between moveable stones and the masons of the cave. Nevertheless, the question is: why would this work not be possible? This is the unique unfinished project left to us by our father. He wanted to finish it himself, but our responsibility is that if one day it becomes real, to do it well.

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