The Irish artist Maximilian Pelzmann creates a sculpture for

Santa Maria “A tribute to my origins”.




A bright white piece of artwork has been seen on the facade of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro in the old part of Donostia(San Sebastian, Spain). With the title of “The Harmony of Sound”, it is the work of Irish artist Maximilian Pelzmann. It is located within the blind window on the facade of the Basilica and can be understood as one step further by Parish priest Don Edorta Kortadi towards the process of opening this religious space to both classical, as well as, contemporary art.

But behind this sculpture there is a story full of feelings, sensations, spirituality and the discovery of this Basque Landscape. Maximilian Pelzmann was born in Dublin in 1974.

His mother Lola is a Donostiarra, “from Plaza de Gipuzkoa,” who moved to Ireland in the early 1960’s and his father is Austrian and an engineer by profession. After many years in Ireland they also resided in Austria, Germany

and the United States. Some time ago his parents retired and decided to settle in Gipuzkoa, specifically in Hondarribia, which has brought the artist more intimately into contact with Euskadi (The BasqueCountry) previously he came to this area only for family holidays as a child.He now divides his time between New York and the surrounding area of Jaizkibel,which very much influenced his most recent work.Being familiar with the Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro and after speaking with Kortadi, the possibility arose to create and place an artwork on the Basilica, however, it is still uncertain for how long it will remain on the facade.

Pelzmann relates, “I realized what a fantastic opportunity this was, not only for me as an artist but, at the same time, also for the entire community. It was also a complex task. Because, I had to find a balance between the integrity of my own artistic language, as well as, that of this magnificent space that had been provided for my art.Not only because San Sebastian is an important city, she is also part of my heritage”. He notes jokingly: “My mother was christened in the baptismal font of this Basilica, so if the sculpture did not come out right she might have killed me, or at best, gives me a thrashing”.



He thought deeply about the building’s decorative baroque and rococo architectural design, the location of the blind window and its relationship to the adjacent stairs and the small square by which one ascends and enters the church.

The confluence of Calle Mayor and Calle 31 de Agosto and the higher elevation of the Basilica Santa Maria del Coro and how all these structures, spaces and shapes related to one another. How lots of different people circulate there.Realizing that this needs also to be investigated, he visited the location at varying times; at Saturday afternoons when it was crowded, then again at night, when young people were sitting on the steps, and at lunchtime when people came to eat pintxos (tapas) at the bars opposite the blind window and the Basilica. “There I could watch how people interacted with each other within the space of the square and the surrounding area.”

The real “revelation” as to how the work should develop came to him one afternoon when, once again, he was in the Basilica looking for inspiration.“There was a wedding in Basque. It was very interesting because in the front part of the interior of the Basilica was the wedding party and guests, and behind, cordoned off, were myself, and a lot of tourists. These were people who came to see the architecture of the building and its interior, but what they encountered was a ceremony performed in a language they could not understand. When it ended, all got up ready to leave, but then, from the choir loft arose the sound of a woman ́s voice singing. At first, everyone, suddenly, all sat down and listened. It was Donostia’s soprano Ainhoa Zubillaga singing Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”And there I realized that the sound coming from her mouth were waves, waves that carried a message, a message that I could represent visually as curves. And there was also harmony! From then on it was quite clear in which direction I had to go.”

After visiting an exhibition of Menchu Gal, Pelzmann began to reflect on topics like the sea and the land around him. Inanother exhibition at Ficoba he saw a painting depicting the ImmaculateConception by the Lezo painter Elias Salaverria. It is the property of the Town Hall of Irun. The clarity and elegance of this painting, he thought, could also be imparted into his sculpture. With this in mind, he began painting the relevant curves and lines onto photos he had taken of the painting, the blind window of Basilica and started developing the sculpture and through this, the form of his artwork began to take shape.

“There are also other elements that influenced the final configuration. One of them was my awareness of the Basilica’s name and that it is dedicated to the Virgin of the Choir. And again, this came to me within its space when the soprano ́s voice and how sound waves look so similar in our interpretation of their form to how ocean waves look with their coming and their going.”

On his regular walks there was one location of importance that also helped shaping the work. It was where mount Jaizkibel meets the Bay of Biscay. There the rocks are sandstone and erosion has created organic geoforms, reminiscent of three-dimensional sound waves. “One day while observing the Basilica’s facade, which is also built of the same sandstone material, I noted that in some of the blocks comprising the façade of the basilica the same phenomenon was taking place.(Erosion through the language of nature and the weather was speaking to the building as it was to the maintain in the same way and over time thereby creating geoforms. And there are also the effects of the sound of the choir and how internally we are all being shaped by sound.) Influenced by these things the concept for the form for “The Harmony of Sound” arose.

“My language is sculpture; through this I made a work that unites my history and heritage with the history of the building and the people who visit it and who are from here. I chose white because it is a church where purity is something that is a given and asked for. Equally so, when speaking of the Basque Language, it is also pure singular route language.”

The materials which the sculpture is comprised of are many,stainless steal and carbon steels, P.E. Foams, Portland Cement, Mineral Aggregates, Fibers, Resins and Paints.

Works of Pelzmann have been installed in several open areas of New YorkCity, mainly in the Brooklyn and Manhattan area of the city, as well as, in New Jersey.

*Written by Teresa Flaño for “EL DIARIO VASCO” newspaper.