This work is registered in the archives of the Museo Chillida-Leku, under no. 1973.002.
'Form springs spontaneously from the needs of the space that builds its dwelling like an animal in its shell. Just like this animal, I am also an architect of the void' (E. Chillida quoted in Chillida 1948-1998, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Madrid, 2000, p. 62).
Executed in 1973, Estela IV is a sculptural homage to Chillida's native Basque country. Created in the same year as the artist's solo exhibitions in the Basque regions Pamplona, Sanguesa and Estela, the work pays tribute to the local landscape with its roughly hewn, ferrous soil bathed in Mediterranean light. Formed out of steel, the weatherless steel that Chillida favoured for the creation of all his outside ironworks, Estela IV has a magnificent patina. It is full of warm earthen tones that radiate from the surface of the majestic sculpture. In Estela IV the sculpture is made up of a single, noble column which diverges at the top, bending and turning into curved rings that gracefully meet like the loops of a bow or the touch of two fingertips. Created on an intimate scale, it nevertheless projects a pronounced gravity, prefiguring the extraordinary Peine del Viento (Wind Comb) that Chillida completed in San Sebastián in 1977, whose majestic, sculpted architecture grasps at the air, stretching out towards the Atlantic Ocean. In Estela IV the 'free and fast material' of space passes around and through its curled steel limbs like the circuitous yet graceful flight of a bird. For the artist's friend, philosopher and poet Gaston Bachelard, this is critical to understanding the artists work: 'For me' he once proclaimed, 'these works of flying iron are bird-cages, caged birds, cages poised to fly away' (G. Bachelard quoted in Elogio del Hiero, exh. cat., Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Valencia, 2002, pp. 62-63).
Chillida's radical understanding of space and celebration of the void is integral to his practice. Throughout his career, he often articulated his principles suggesting: 'Space? Sculpture is a function of space. I don't mean the space outside the form, which surrounds the volume and in which the forms live, but the space generated by the forms, which lives within them and which is more effective the more unnoticeably it acts. You could compare it to the breath that swells and contracts forms that opens up their space - inaccessible to and hidden from the outside world - to view. I do not see it as something abstract, but a reality as solid as the volume that envelops it' (E. Chillida quoted in I. Busch, 'Eduardo Chillida, Architect of the Void: On the Synthesis of Architecture and Sculpture', Chillida 1948-1998, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1998, p. 66). In 1968 Chillida had a pivotal meeting with Martin Heidegger leading to the publication of Die Kunst und der Raum (Art and Space). Heidegger posited space as something living in relation to man, with sculpture as the privileged means of its articulation. These ideas were derived from the direct experience of Chillida's unique and conceptually driven approach to sculpture.
For Chillida, iron and its steel alloy have consistently been his privileged medium. Embarking upon the practice of iron working early in the 1950s, Chillida was returning to his roots: the dark, mineral rich earth of the Basque country. As Gaston Bachelard once wrote '[Chillida] is familiar with the complex soul of iron. He knows that iron has a strange sensitivity' (E. Chillida quoted in I. Busch, 'Eduardo Chillida, Architect of the Void: On the Synthesis of Architecture and Sculpture', Chillida 1948- 1998, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1998, p. 66). It is this adept fluency with this medium that stands Chillida apart from his forebears including Pablo Gargallo and Julio González who first introduced metallurgy to the sculptural vernacular. Instead of welding iron and steel, Chillida only ever employed traditional wrought metal. As a result his sculpture counterpoints its stark materiality with a lightness of touch, each steel tentacle avoiding blunt intersections in favour of a continuous flow of energy.