Like their home country itself, Gibraltar’s artists have been influenced by the cultures and customs of Spain, Britain and Africa. From a 19th century painter who was in love with Seville to a contemporary singer who counts flamenco and rock among her inspirations, here are seven artists from Gibraltar you should know about.
Christian Hook (painter, born 1971)
In acknowledgement of his outstanding contribution to visual art, Gibraltar’s best-known contemporary painter was given the prestigious “Freedom of Gibraltar” award this year. Indeed, 2017 has been good to Christian Hook, who is known for portraits rendered with colourful and bold lines: he also performed a two-hour live painting of the actress Kirsten Scott-Thomas for the cover of the Financial Times’ “How To Spend It” magazine in Paris. Hook trained and worked as an illustrator and experimented with stamp design and music before dedicating himself to fine art. Read his fascinating interview with Culture Trip here.
Surianne (singer, born 1979)
On International Women’s Day earlier this year, Gibraltarian singer and songwriter Surianne Dalmedo – known as “Surianne” or “La Niña del Sur” (“The Girl of the South”) – was named as one of Gibraltar’s seven most successful women by the Gibraltar Olive Press newspaper. Her music is influenced by the various cultures and countries that have shaped her home country and mixes Spanish, British and north African rhythms and sounds with flamenco, acoustic guitar, rock and Latino. In April this year, “We Are As One” – a number she co-wrote with producer Terry Shaughnessy – was the official song of the second United Nationalities Marbella Summit in Marbella.
Paul Cosquieri (painter, born 1963)
“If what you are after is a pretty painting, then forget about Cosquieri”, runs a line on this painter’s website. Cosquieri is a household name for Gibraltarian art lovers and is known for fearless experimentation in his work, which spans the fields of painting, sculpture and life drawing. In 2007, Cosquieri received critical acclaim with an exhibition entitled “Between The Rock and a Hard Place” – a series of pictures that explored the jagged, angular forms of Gibraltar’s 426-metre high Rock. As promised, they are not pretty images – but they are bold and powerful and capture the drama of Gibraltar’s untamed terrain. Cosquieri is currently president of the Gibraltar Fine Arts Association.
Francis Gomila (Sculptor, b. 1954)
Gomila was the founder and director of Fine Rats International, an artist-led cooperative that enlivened gritty urban locations with sculptures and installations between 1989 and 1993. Although Gibraltar-born, the artist moved to the UK mainland in 1973 and has since produced his most memorable work there; acclaimed pieces include “The Pace of Recovery” – a stainless steel flying swan mounted on a plinth in Stoke-on-Trent – and “Waiting for Halley’s Comet to Pass”, a flowing circle of metal figures near Birmingham that Gomila has said represents the uncertainty of our times. The artist currently lives in Newcastle.
To discover what the next Christian Hooks of the Gibraltarian – and indeed international – art world are up to, head to Gibraltar Exhibitions of Modern Art. Opened in 2015 in the stylishly renovated Montagu Bastion, this exciting collection displays works by the annual victors in Gibraltar’s three main art competitions – the Young Art Competition, International Arts Competition and the Spring Arts Competition. The exposed brickwork of the Bastion provides a fittingly contemporary backdrop to these innovative and challenging additions to Gibraltar’s arts scene. It’s open Monday-Friday, 11am-3pm, and entrance is free.
John Galliano (designer, born 1960)
One of the darlings of the international fashion world, Galliano was appointed head designer for Givenchy in 1995 – the first time that a British designer had been put in creative charge of a French haute couture label. It was to be a short-lived stint, though, as he was pinched by Christian Dior in 1996, where he remained as creative director until 2011. A colourful and sometimes controversial character, Galliano has won the British Designer of the Year Award four times and in 2007 appeared on the Independent on Sunday’s “pink list” as “one of the most influential gay people in Britian”. Currently he lives and works in Paris, where he is creative director at Maison Margiela.
Gustavo Bacarisas (painter, 1873-1971)
One of Gibraltar’s most famous sons and greatest artists, Bacarisas took much of his subject matter from life in the Andalusian capital of Seville, where he settled after the Second World War. He is known for a bold and distinctive use of colour, which enabled him to capture subtle variations of light and shade, night and day. This style is particularly evident in one of his most important paintings, 1915’s “Sevilla en Fiestas”; set at night, three beautiful Andlausian women in full flamenco attire are illuminated as if by a supernatural glow in the centre of an otherwise dark-hued canvas. He gives his name to Gibraltar’s Gustavo Bacarisas art gallery, formerly known as the Fine Arts Gallery.
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