“Peine del Viento” and Eduardo Chillida

Published on May 26, 2015

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Eduardo Chillida’s career is marked by a constant presence of serialization or repetition as a way to experiment with variations over the same topic. As a result of this ongoing inquiry, the “Peine del viento” (Wind comb) series begun in the year 1952. A series that he developed until 1999, and which consists of 23 sculptures and some paper-based works.

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“It took me 25 years to “hit” with the design, from 1952 with the first comb, until 1977 with “Peine del viento” in Donostia.”

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The Wind Comb XV is the most emblematic work of Eduardo Chillida. It is designed to be manufactured in corten steel in order to stand the test of time and the strong erosion of the sea and wind. The “Peine del viento” is presented as a monumental set of three solid steel shapes, powerfully fixed to the rocks, opened like huge claws defying the laws of nature. The first two, located on the same geological stratum, and facing horizontally, maintain a constant dialogue, resulting from the union of the past and the present. The third one, vertically straightened on the horizon, interrogates the unknown future. Those three elements that mark and limit the place configure a sacred space that connects the man with himself and the cosmos, a meeting place between man and nature.

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At first, it was proposed to be a mere transient exposition:

“The idea for this place and this rock came to me long ago. They wanted me to make an exposition due to a tribute, but it did not seem the most appropriate solution for me. I preferred something that would remain in time.”

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The work has a tremendous symbolism for the artist, it is a tribute to his town, placed in front of “his master” the sea and “the motherland of all men”, the horizon. Still, Eduardo Chillida omits to explain his work:

“It must be left opened, it is an open work. Everyone has to translate therefore his own interpretation. In this work, there are enough clear details so that a sensitive person would feel attracted. Like I said, this work has a number of keys on which to think and have an interpretation. It is an interrogation to the unknown, face to face with the horizon and the future.”

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Various companies and institutions enabled that the work would be carried out. At first, it was meant to be a unique sculpture located in a huge fissured rock, but later, Eduardo decided they would be three. For him, the number three had a meaning, perhaps due to a concrete geometrical or mathematical dimension.

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Once the field survey, the construction drawings, the models, the documents and prototypes were made, and after the square was constructed by architect Luis Peña Ganchegui, it began the placing of the sculpture. The rocks were reinforced to withstand the weight of 10 tons of each of the sculptures and were also drilled to fit them.

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The aim was to seek a symbiosis between the rock and the sculptures, so that all materials introduced into the rocks to support the weight were not harmed once the sculptures were placed.

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Various possibilities for placement of the sculptures were proposed, considering its size and weight.
It was intended to mobilize a helicopter from the American military base in Zaragoza. The attempt failed because they did not have equipment ready to support that tonnage.
Another solution proposed was the descent with ropes from Paseo del Faro in Igeldo to the site, building a temporary road. Anyway, this would not solve the problem for the placement and lace.
Another proposal was to transport the sculpture rafting or with a floating crane, but the characteristics of the surrounding rocks, along with the swell made it dangerous.
The final solution was to build a bridge capable of supporting not only the weight of the sculpture (10TN), but also the tides and the waves.

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Once the temporary bridge was placed, they started with the background sculpture, locating it at a distance of 80 meters from the shore. The next sculpture that was installed was the one on the left hand. The last one was the sculpture on the right, for which a ten-meter walkway was built. Finally, they proceeded to the cleaning phase, erasing all traces of concrete or artificial material that had been placed before.

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It catches the eye the low participation of the media at the opening. Eduardo Chillida explains it: “[…]It is not politics directly what goes against me, it seems to me that it is perhaps lack of knowledge about my work.”

Photographs courtesy of Jesus Uriarte Cámara

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