In 1951 Eduardo Chillida had returned home to the Basque Country after spending three years in Paris. The French capital had given the artist access to the vast treasures of its museums and opened his eyes to artistic creation. It was upon his return to his homeland, however, that Chillida found his true and immediately recognisable language. Delving into his ancestral heritage, the artist mastered the art of working with iron, and began a lifelong relationship with this material, with which he was to create some of the most arresting sculptures of the Twentieth Century. His preoccupations surrounding materiality and space soon began to draw him to work with other materials such as wood and steel.
It was not until 1965, however, that Chillida began his inquiry into alabaster and its unique properties. During a visit to Greece two years earlier, the artist was fascinated by how the dazzling light of the Mediterranean sun penetrated architecture and sculpture alike. He reflected: “I belong to a country that has a dark light. The Atlantic is dark, the Mediterranean is not. The light is so different” (the artist quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía; Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, Chillida 1948 – 1998, 1999, p. 78). His choice of alabaster was thus a natural one; the delicate luminosity inherent to this work reminds one indeed of a morning in the Basque country, when the sky is cast and the light that penetrates the soft, white clouds is subtle and transparent.
Modulation Hétérodoxe II of 1974 is one of around fifty works in alabaster that Chillida created up until the early 2000s. Of intimate proportions, this sculpture has nonetheless the same monumental quality of the artist’s grand public works. As its title suggests, Chillida modulated the stone, creating openings and recesses that allow light to penetrate, casting shadows and forming illusory spaces. Light is simultaneously revealed and concealed in Modulation Hétérodoxe II, permeating it with a quasi-spiritual energy.
Eduardo Chillida found in alabaster a material that he could continue to explore throughout the latter part of his artistic career. Through his investigations with matter and the elements, Chillida was able to create physical yet strikingly poetic manifestations of light and space. In its soft and almost ethereal variations of white stone, Modulation Hétérodoxe II superbly encapsulates the artist’s efforts to capture and represent the particular light of the Basque country, that “dark light” to which Chillida belonged.
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