A hidden gem in a blessed environment
Arturo picked me up at the railway station after a six-and-a-half hour journey from Madrid.
I am in Almería, southeast Spain, and his old but solid car runs along a sunny and arid landscape: ancient volcanoes, abandoned gold mines, home to hollywoodian settings from Spaghetti-western to Starwars. This background is also covered in some areas by thousands of whitish, plastic greenhouses. Everyday, Almería’s produce hits the road to feed North Europe.
As we come to El Pozo de los Frailes -literally, The Friars’ Well- awaits the visitor a tiny, less than a 200-souls village located a mere 2 km away from coastal San José. A post-office, a local honey-maker, a gourmet restaurant and la Galería de los Frailes.
This is home to Arturo’s house and Art Gallery. A well-kept secret.
I had the chance to meet two artists there: Frank Mc Hugh and Lola Estrella.
Frank lives and works in El Pozo since a long while. A Beaux-Arts academic-trained artist, he came from Britain to Almería attracted by the local scenery. His work revolves around his trademark angels, enigmatic still-lives, mysterious, unique flowers and beautiful women. Frank’s use of colour is fascinating: his challenge consists of using almost flat, vibrant shades of colour and still give a true depth to his works. He names Cézanne and Matisse his Masters, but his attitude towards his own work remains extremely modest. Frank confessed that he tries to understand some of his pictures! A first glance puts a Viewer’s knowledge to test: under an apparently simple, colourful motive lies a brilliant composition with further signs inviting to look inside and beyond the picture. A fantastic, hidden world awaits the Connaisseur.
A vibrant selection of Frank McHugh’s oil paintings on canvas or wood, some ornated with rare, handcrafted frames, can be admired and purchased at the Galería de los Frailes.
A special mention deserves Lola Estrella, a local artist with an original production depicting mostly Meninas -after Velázquez legendary work- but under a very different approach. Lola uses warm colours and contrasts to highlight the peculiar characters. She analyzes and explores the Meninas with acrylic, oil and textures on canvas, paper, wood...and textile.
Lola went recently to Bali to learn the Batik dyeing technique on silk and rayon. She just came back with an amazing Meninas collection, unusual, colourful and delicate alike. Lola is looking forward to commercializing her series into lighter fabrics with Arturo’s help. The extremely original, less-is-more-drawn Meninas can be materialized into shawls, pareos and scarves. She even designed a silver and gemstones pendant, a definitive must-have. Her exclusive new works can be viewed on appointment only.
Arturo’s Galería de los Frailes is open to the public and may be visited anytime on appointment. Before you decide to drop by, it is strongly recommended to give Arturo a call: an appealing, passionate and straightforward person, he will be delighted to show his treasures and assist you on choosing your next Art piece.