Black and White
Sculptures in steel and Stone

In 1990, I was asked to make the ceremonial doors of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate in Valparaiso, large sculptural objects measuring 2.50 – 5.0 meters.

From the beginning, based on a literary metaphor of democracy, I thought that these doors should be firm, permanent like stone but, at the same time, flexible like steel.

I worked with the simplest of forms: circles, wheels; I knew from previous experiences that the stone would not capture the drawings as I was used to doing with steel, when I impressed on it the movements, tensions and compressions found in positions of great mobility of the human or animal figure, of forests or ships.

In the history of sculpture, the origin and development of steel and stone are very different.

Stone is associated to the quarry it comes from, to the modeling, to clay which is nothing but stone (pulverized granite) combined with water. Clay provides the original model, prior to the carving, which is why the surface of a sculpture in stone always retains traces of the water.

Granites (Granodiorites), the stones that I combine with iron, are formed only 50 kilometers below the surface of the ground of the quarry where I built my workshop.

Granites form part of the family of igneous stones, better known as plutonic stones, together with the basalts, gabbros and andesites.

Pluto is a cold planet, the one farthest away from the sun.

Pluto is also the god of the underworld, authoritarian, like the stone, he does not accept insubordinations or disorder.

Iron forms the core of the earth; it is found much deeper, 5,000 km beneath the granites. This metal transformed the planet into an immense magnet that, through the force of gravity, produced the weight of the stones and consequently their immobility.

The Greeks locate the workshop of Vulcan, the god of iron, in Sicily, deep inside Mount Etna. Hephaestus or Vulcan is not only the god of iron but also the god of fire, of the energy that the Earth holds inside it.

Iron is born of fire; stone breaks and dies with fire.

Iron is the primary component of the meteorites that fly through space toward the earth.

Iron is also a conductor of electricity, malleable, it can be transformed into thin sheets, wire, shaped, hot forged, shredded, re-welded, re-forged in the form of a red-hot soup, only to be refrozen into the original iron pig and then return to the fight, brilliant, as untouched as if it had just come out of the mine.

Steel is mobility itself: any object made of iron retains the memory of its flight as a meteorite or of the journey from the core to the surface of the earth.

The cultural history of stone is immense; it is so long that it becomes mingled and is lost in the origins of our craft, 30 or 40,000 years.

With all its incredible attributes, in my opinion iron is the material that is most adequate for sculpture. And yet, the history of steel in sculpture is short: 100 years since the first collages made by the Russian constructivists.

A brief history is we compare it with that of stone, or with the 25 centuries of human forging or casting. Iron enters history together with writing, a contemporary of Socrates and Aristotle, a contemporary of philosophy.

Iron, elevated to the category of steel in the XVII century, the century of Descartes, was the cause of the Industrial revolution and the rapid progress of the exact sciences. Thereafter, steel began its transformation into a machine, a bridge, a train, a railroad track, a tower, graphics, on a large scale in the cities.

Today, steel is a word that is shared in the realms of both public and private space. In iron sculpture, which is just starting, steel has the role of a "Drawing in space", as three-dimensional graphics.

Using red-hot steel, I "write" with my right hand, whilst the left hand holds the tongs, and these in turn hold the piece of steel; but it is the hand holding the hammer, the right hand, that gives it its shape, the one that "writes." This is similar to the fingers of the right hand on clay or the same fingers driving the pencil in drawing or literature.

Iron is very close to reason; it is directed by the left hemisphere, which explains its habit of writing, of telling stories: "The thousand and one nights of iron".

I do not write with stone because the hand that carves the stone is the left hand. The hand of the unconscious mind, connected to the right lobe of the brain, is the one that guides the chisel and in hewing it creates deep places in the stones, refuges for the shadows and heights that invite the light.

Prior to thought, the stone was always with us the sculptors, there was nothing to understand about it, we merely carved it.

The stone only knows how to "be there", like a kind of queen sitting there, it does not bend or become sheets, we only have one opportunity with it when carving, if it breaks it cannot be welded, if it melts it becomes glass, transparent and even more delicate and fragile, if it is ground and pulverized it becomes clay which, when it dries, becomes dust once again and flies away on the wind.

During the 40 years that I have worked with these two materials separately, each one of them, because of their particular way of being, created in me a sort of heteronomy, two, very different sculptural personalities; something similar can be seen in the work of the poet Pessoa who wrote his poetry from 3 different positions.

In practice, these materials started creating different places and different accumulations of tools inside my workshop, a place for stone and a place for iron.

It was because of stone that I arrived at the quarry where I built my house and my workshop, but it was the iron that created the conditions. The pulleys and trucks were of iron; the forge, the chisels, the wedges and hammers to work the stone are made of steel.

After nearly two years of work I conclude the following:
- The stone never moved at the rhythm of the music of the iron.

- Every sculpture tells a story in its own way; in the beginning I thought that stone and iron were the characters of the story, but that was not the case. I had to look for the sculptural equivalent of the characters in their interaction, a new synthesis that was neither stone nor iron, but rather, a new creature.

- In the beginning, I always started with iron shapes, because of iron's attribute to become the word, the writer of the story. Bit by bit, as I worked, I began to silence the iron and listen to the stones, until I reached an economy similar to that of crafts like jewelry making, where metal is used as mounting for the stones, it supports the immobile stones; it supports them and also surrounds them, almost without touching them.

"Black and white"

Light and shadow of these two materials, so very different in their cosmic origin and habitat that lies between the darkness and light.

I explain here the conclusions reached with respect to a reflection on the changes that took place in me, as a human being, as a sculptor, faced by two beloved forms of matter.

These sculptures are the final outcome of work where, in the process of combining two materials, the white of the stone and the black of the iron, I gradually began to bring together parts of myself that had been separated:
My head with my two hands. My left hand and my right hand. My dual personalities of carver and blacksmith, fire and water, without either of them being extinguished. For the first time, I connected one half of my workshop, the quarry, with the other half, the forge, at the same time that I was bringing together in my mind the magnetic center of the earth with these rocks that weigh on it, using the force of gravity that the very same center generates.

In the stones, I linked Vulcan to Pluto.

I joined two halves of myself that required 40 years of work in order to come together again.

The result is also the repose of iron, which finally rests on the stone in peace, liberated like Scheherazade from her thousand and one stories.

Francisco Gazitúa
Pirque, July 2009