Painting is rarely a team sport and maintaining the right balance between solitude and contact around which a career can be built is a perennial challenge. In the period from January 1951 to June of 1953 Gonzalo Chillida was striking this balance in two periods of residence at the Colegio de España in Paris. What came out of this experience over the next few years was a body of work which took his previously figurative tendencies down an accelerated path of abstraction which stands in bold relief against previous work and the muted abstract landscapes of the later periods.
Minimal yet densely rich brushwork floats against the white surface with effortless confidence. Surprisingly small in the flesh, in reproduction they can be imagined on a large scale. Yet this was Paris at the start of the 50s and the super-sized ambition of American painting hadn’t yet started to disrupt the fiddly aesthetic of European easel painting. This modest series is an object lesson in less is more.
We can only imagine where Chillida might have brought this development in his work had he kept dipping into the cauldron of Paris, but instead he settled back into the bosom of solitude.
*In the text above I make passing reference to Gonzalo Chillida’s later work and, given the restrictions of the 200 words format, I couldn’t expand on the beauty of the later landscape inspired paintings. To get an overview of the many fascinating aspects of Chillida’s oeuvre, I can recommend the following website, which is maintained by the artist’s estate.