Magazine article UNESCO Courier
My Latest Work - a Wall
My latest work--a wall
IN 1955 Unesco asked me to take part in the decoration of its new headquarters buildings, then under construction in the Place de Fontenoy, Paris. Two perpendicular walls--one fifteen metres long, the other seven and a half metres long--near the Conference building were put at my disposal. My idea was to decorate them with ceramics, in collaboration with Jose Llorens-Artigas.
The design and colouring for the walls I was to decorate were suggested by the shapes of the buildings themselves, their spatial structure, and the play of light. As a reaction to the huge concrete surfaces around the larger wall came the idea of a large, vivid red disc. Its counterpart on the smaller wall would be a blue crescent to accord with the more confined area it was to occupy. . . . I aimed at a crude and forceful expression in the large wall and at something more poetic in the smaller one. I also wanted to provide an element of contrast within each composition itself, and for this reason I conceived harsh, dynamic outlines side by side with restful coloured shapes, in flat-tinted or in check design.
The second stage in the task was to study with Artigas how my plan in ceramics was to be carried out. No ceramist had ever before been faced with an undertaking of this scope. Besides this, as both walls were to be in the open air and unprotected, we had to keep in mind the extent to which the materials used would resist differences in temperature, humidity, and the sun's rays. There is no doubt that Artigas was the only person capable of solving these extremely difficult problems.
He sought, like an alchemist of old, the type of earth, the sandstone enamels and the colours that he would use. It was true creative work.
It was then that we suddenly decided to visit Santillana del Mar to have another look at the famous cave paintings of Altamira and gain inspiration from the world's earliest mural art. While we were in the "Collegiata', the old Romanesque church at Santillana, we were deeply moved by the extraordinary beauty of the material used on an old wall, rotten with damp. Artigas made notes about it for the purpose of his backgrounds. …