Jaume Plensa, 2010
Salzburg Art Project 2010
AWILDA by Jaume Plensa
Sammlung Würth, Inv. 14402
For the Ninth Salzburg Art Project, the Catalan artist Jaume Plensa has created a sculpture for the “Dietrichsruh” in the University of Salzburg: Bearing the title “Awilda”, it is a monumental 5-metre-high bust of a young girl with Caribbean facial features, fashioned from white Spanish marble.
Seemingly springing up out of the ground, the figure suggests distance and proximity simultaneously. It exudes a preternatural tranquillity and an enigmatic aura. Although we see clearly the head of a girl, “Awilda” immediately begins to withdraw from the unambiguity of that initial moment of recognition. The artist succeeds in unravelling our perception by having sculpted his work not from a block, but from 20 slabs of the same height, each of a different circumference, which, stacked on top of each other, are mounted on a steel pole anchored to the ground. Consequently, the head seems to oscillate, spiral upwards into the sky, and generate a rippling wave rising and falling over its surface. As we circumambulate the figure, its silhouette seems to change permanently.
However, the reasons for the layered arrangement of the marble slabs are both formal and thematic in origin: For they allude to the “layers of humanity” observed in Salzburg by Plensa, which have grown over the centuries:
“Awilda comes from Santo Domingo. She is just one of the many who have come to Europe in search of a better life. My objective is to use her face to inject an image of the future into the heart of our old traditions. The extraordinary history of the city of Salzburg consists of layers of humanity which have amassed over time. Like sedimentary deposits. Awilda embodies the enormous capacity of an anonymous person to help shape daily history – even if this is normally eclipsed by the great names and the political events. Here daily life is transformed into something transcendental. A celebration of the people.” (Jaume Plensa)
This idea was influential in Jaume Plensa’s decision to install his sculpture in the “Dietrichsruh”, of the University of Salzburg. It is an open, well-frequented site, serving as an entrance. Thronging with students from across the world, it furnishes the perfect setting for his “rootless” Awilda; for this is a meeting place, a rendezvous point where people congregate to collectively shape the future. The site and the work symbolise openness, new encounters and knowledge.
Jaume Plensa was born in Barcelona in 1955. His works are now exhibited in museums and galleries across Europe, the USA and Japan, and he has created a range of public sculptures and designed stage sets for the opera. He has taught at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts and at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. The artist lives and works in Barcelona and Paris.