Covered in marble dust, the Uruguayan sculptor breaks off from his labours in his adopted home of Lecco on the shores of Lake Como to talk Carrara marble and Michelangelo. Works by Atchugarry are offered in New York, 21-22 November
Encouraged to pursue an artistic career from a young age, Uruguayan artist Pablo Atchugarry executed his first sculptures in cement and iron in the 1970s. The Montevideo-born sculptor began working in marble in 1979, following his first solo show in Lecco, Italy, a year earlier, and exhibitions in several European cities. In 1982, he carved his first monumental sculpture in Carrara marble.
‘When I started to work as an artist, I realised very quickly that I had no other choice but to become a sculptor,’ Atchugarry says. ‘The first time I visited Carrara, it was like finding true love. I felt that Michelangelo had been there and left something there for other sculptors to follow in his footsteps. Every time I go to Carrara, I have the same feeling: that the mountain is somehow entrusting its children to me.’
Exactly 20 years after Atchugarry executed his first sculpture in Carrara marble, the city of Carrara would bestow on him the Michelangelo Award, honouring his artistic achievements over the previous two decades. The following year, he represented Uruguay at the 50th Venice Biennale with the sculpture Soñando la paz, an eight-piece work in Carrara and Bardiglio della Garfagnana marble.
‘When you’re working directly with stone, especially marble,’ Atchugarry explains, ‘it’s very dramatic, because there’s no way back. Every part that is taken out of the block will never be part of it again. That means you must know where the limit is, where it is you want to stop, because [marble] is fragile. As Michelangelo said, it’s about finding the image that is already in the rock.’
Opened in 2007, the eponymous Fundación Pablo Atchugarry in Manantiales, Uruguay, is a meeting place for artists across all mediums, and helps to promote the arts in the country. Atchugarry, born in 1954, currently lives between Lecco and Manantiales, where he teaches and helps to develop the foundation, in addition to working on his own sculpture.
‘One must delve into himself and find his own vision,’ the artist says. ‘Every one of us was born with a vision, and our goal is to share it with mankind.’