Border Lines – Eloquent Silence and FulFilled Emptiness
Chillida in the Stommeln Synagogue
In over fifty years of artistic activity, Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida has created an unusually expressive and highly comprehensive oeuvre which over the decades has, particularly in the from of colossal monuments and interventions in public places, remained strongly topical right up to the present. Whenever he is commissioned as a sculptor, the artist always makes a point of reserving the right to select the precise location for intuitively positioning or conceiving his work. He notably prefers medieval, historical, or religiously defined places and buildings, into which context the works can be harmoniously integrated. All his works share the fact that Chillida devises a unique (artistic-)space for them independent of ambient influences, thereby preserving their autonomy and enabling the observer to duly address them.
For the synagogue in Stommeln, Chillida came up with an installation which although extremely cautious is also very clear. At the center of the synagogue's interior – an empty area which seems almost square – he positioned a small sculpture devised especially for this setting. On the one hand, the sculpture is self-contained, introspective, and autonomous. At the same time, it opens up to the surrounding space and fills it. A flat steel plate with three heterogeneous elements rests on a round, wooden base, composed of quarters of dressed stone. In the manner of a battery, the sculpture is charged by the energy and tension in the room, then transmits both again. Thanks to its small scale, the sculpture makes the surrounding space appear larger, a phenomenon recognized by Alberto Giacometti. Simultaneously, it develops an "inner" monumentality that is not the product of size, but evolves from the power of the artistic form. As a consequence, the sculpture intensifies the silence of the space and transforms the emptiness of the space into eloquent silence.1