Do you work differently today in your approach to art compared to 30 years ago?
Zigor – When I was a young sculptor, I began exploring many places, like the forest and the mountains, observing without really knowing how to draw. I already envisioned finished sculptures in the trees. It felt a bit presumptuous to say that, but I felt like Michelangelo, able to see the white horses in the block of stone. It was more than just a feeling; it was a certainty for me. So, I would go to the workshop, pick up the chainsaw, and start working. I didn’t have a precise intention; it was a direct execution because I instinctively knew how to do it.
I realized that not everyone is Michelangelo, and even I couldn’t replicate what I observed. However, this introspection gave me a profound feeling. I realized that preserving this feeling, almost a religious one, was important. That’s how I decided to learn to draw. So, I consulted the curator of the Bonnat Museum in Bayonne, with whom I had a good relationship. I asked him where I could learn to draw, and his answer surprised me. He advised me not to waste my time in school but to come to the museum instead. He gave me a permanent access card and encouraged me to copy what I saw on the walls. A phrase he told me still resonates with me: “Drawing is looking. If you observe carefully, you’ll draw well. Sit down and observe.”
I understood that we drew poorly when we added nonexistent elements because we didn’t take the time to observe. I spent many years correcting this approach. Afternoons at the Bonnat Museum were a true adventure for me, a constant exploration. The curator also advised me to use the tool that suited me best, regardless of the thickness or fineness of the pencils, for example. So, I dedicated many years to this practice.
Gradually, these changes completely transformed my way of sculpting. It didn’t happen overnight, but almost. When I really knew how to draw, I realized I was no longer just looking outward but also inward. I then tried to represent what I had seen, what I believed, or what I wished for. It was a new revelation that completely transformed my approach to sculpture.
Your upcoming exhibition in Bordeaux is titled “The Mystery of Intention.” Why intention?
Zigor – Intention is something that already belongs to the past, yet it changes almost every moment. Intention is also my desire. It’s very rare to be strict with intention because the temptation to modify it is constant.
Intention transforms; it brings about changes. It’s also poetry that tempts me to approach sculpture and chaos. I can better organize chaos through sculpture than with words. Words are also visual, but I always feel they address a different part of the human being, a more intimate and mysterious part.
I would say that poets are more motivated by the desire to speak rather than a specific intention. During an exhibition, I talked about chaos and how it can be organized. Look at the Bay of Biarritz, where there are 50 rocks. Try mentally reorganizing them; you can’t. Chaos has an organization we get used to until it reorganizes differently next time.
An example I often use because I believe in it is Hendaye. If you look, there are sculptures at my place that were inspired by contemplating the Deux Jumeaux in Hendaye. People think the twins, those two rocks, are separate, but it’s false. At low tide, if you look, you’ll see they’re still connected. When the water rises a bit, the poetic mystery of separation begins.
Today, you’re known as an artist, painter, poet, and photographer. You don’t need to justify your choices. Has there been a moment when people, perhaps in galleries or elsewhere, told you, “But who are you really? You can’t be a painter, sculptor, and poet at the same time. You need to choose”?
Zigor – Yes, I’ve been through that, but not in the same chronology as you mentioned. Initially, I was a photographer for war reportage magazines. So, no one really knew me at that time. One day, in the city of Algiers, I made a decision. I said, “I’m stopping everything and diving in.” From that moment on, if I went home, I would dedicate myself solely to sculpture. And that’s how I started making sculptures. I did only that for almost 30 years.
One day, a major art dealer visited my studio, and my life changed definitively. He said, “Your sculptures are meant to be monumental. We’ll create bronzes.” I began exploring new territories and different worlds.
There’s a quote often attributed to Chillida, but I’m not certain of its authenticity. However, I firmly believe that well before him, others must have expressed this idea: “You must do what you don’t know how to do.” This phrase resonates deeply in my existence. Even today, I’m still there.