While the Costa del Sol is mostly known for its sunny beaches, polo and golf sporting events, what you might not know about is the incredible art scene in this area. You may spot the work of local artisans in the Sunday market in the Puerto de Sotogrande but many artists’ work goes unseen. Having spoken to the owner of restaurant La Finca Thai Fusion, Syrie Blanco Walsh who herself is an artist, we can gain some insight into the world of a creative mind and what it is to be an artist in this day and age.
Why is art important and why do you make art?
“Art is the expression of humans’ creative skill and imagination. Everything has an element of art to it, even nature. It offers balance. To me personally it brings happiness and joy and allows me to focus on the beauty and emotional power of the pieces I’m creating.
There’s a quote that I really like which is “the Earth without ‘art’ is just ‘eh’ and I believe this to be so true.”
What are you currently working on?
"At the moment I’m working on a project that is all about hearts. I’m currently on number 49 out of 99 hearts to be made which is the very important ‘Self-Love Heart’. I’ve also just finished the ‘Camouflage Heart’, made with clay and driftwood. A huge part of this project is influenced by nature.
‘The Hearts project’ is based on two concepts: first the heart, the organ that pumps life into every one of us; and second is time, 99 days. One heart will represent each day lived here in Spain during the first confinement as a result of Covid-19. A world pandemic that has affected each and every one of us in one way or another. For all the heart pieces I use different mediums and they therefore result in unique forms. This project has helped me care about myself more, it’s been therapeutic; not worrying so much about the end result and making it more about the process.
What role do you think artists have in society?
“Artists influence society by changing opinions with their creations. Hundreds of years ago we had Da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Boticelli amongst others. All their works were (and still are) hugely valued and they forced change and innovation with their masterpieces.
Nowadays I would say it depends on the understanding on a personal level of what art really means and its importance in our everyday life. Not everyone values art as some believe that it’s something anyone can do.
The truth is that the role of an artist in todays culture is as important as always. They are key to opening horizons, seeking change and seeing solutions by thinking outside of the frame of society.
How has your practice changed over time? Do you have the same style?
“In a nutshell I would have to say your style can always change, but your stroke or your imprint on your piece never will. It’s like your DNA, it’s always yours. Your style evolves as you learn new techniques and better your execution. Personal interests and how you execute an idea may also change over time but your stroke is your fingerprint. In Spanish we have a word ‘trazo’ which means ‘stroke’ and it is yours.”
Tell me about the artwork that you did for the local hospital.
“It was in the main hospital in Algeciras. The association ‘Bandera Rosa’ approached me. They wanted an interactive art piece for their cancer unit. The art installation had to be sturdy enough to withstand being used by lots of people, but it also had to be interesting enough for people to want to use it. Another challenge was it being in a cancer unit, it had to be a clean piece so I had to avoid using certain chemicals and glues.
I created three trees, the trees of life. Each tree in greens, blues and pinks were painted on pieces of cork. Using cork allowed each piece to have some volume while simultaneously being as lightweight as possible. The tree branches were left bare so that patients and visitors - using paper laser cut leaves in pinks, oranges and greens - could write or draw on the leaves and add it to the trees. I know from the nurses of that unit that some write stories, others do drawings and many thank those who have helped them along their fight.
The beauty of this project is at the end of every year the nurses collect all the leaves and make a memory book. Every year the trees of life has new leaves.”
Do you use your restaurant, La Finca, as gallery space?
“La Finca is a special place, its calm and welcoming atmosphere creates the perfect scene for ones imagination to grow.
I believe you can have good food anywhere nowadays, even in your own home. So many of us like to cook and people are becoming more and more adventurous with food. When you go out to eat, it’s about an all-encompassing experience: smell, taste, touch, what you can see and how all of this makes you feel.
I’ve been wanting to move La Finca more towards an art gallery experience, to add something more to the eating and food moments we offer. Our philosophy at La Finca is for diners to slow down, listen to music, look at the art and create great memories in that moment. We truly believe in the slow food movement where everything around us including taking our time should be part of our meal experience.”
Is it difficult for local artists to get their work recognised?
“Yes, absolutely. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t start my personal project sooner. When you live in a small town you feel like you’re disconnected from the art movements and art circles around you. Nowadays, though, there are great tools that connect us to the creative cycle of society. The best tool we have now is social media; it can take your art anywhere. Working Instagram as a gallery space and to show the art making process connects the viewer and the artist. This alone is such an important connection as it allows the viewer not only to create a relationship with the art piece but also it allows them to understand the artist and their work process. Social media is, in my opinion, the way forward.
Instagram is the more static visual social media, like a gallery space, whereas Tiktok is good for process clips.”
* Use the handle @syriejo.art to see Syrie’s Instagram!
Who is your favourite local artist?
“Maral Rios. I love everything about her - her energy, her technique, her person. She deserves so much success.”
To see Maral Rios’ work on Instagram, use the handle @maral.rios.gallery or visit her website at https://maralrios.es/
What advice do you have for new artists?
“Just go for it. Have no fear and use tools that society has given to the absolute maximum of your ability. The internet is an amazing resource that can really be beneficial for artists. Also be individual; allow for advice and opinions but do not permit people to change who you are and what you’re creating and why you’re creating it.”
As an artist, what is your outlook on life?
“The word ‘life’ encompasses so many emotions. Life is hard, painful, bitter and angry but suddenly amongst all the unkind emotions there’s intense beauty, peace and kindness.
Nature is the essence of life. I wake up to flowers and my pets, to their kisses and hugs. This, friends and laughter are the moments worth living for; they give you the strength you need to battle every day’s trials.
Art is the beauty amongst chaos. For those of us who love and live art, it’s our natural problem solver and outlet.”
It is interesting to see first hand the polarity of the world’s creatives - to see such wonder and beauty in amongst our chaotic world with the imagination to create and yet struggle to gain recognition and make a living solely as an artist. It is important to support local businesses and recognise the artwork of local artists to keep the culture and local economy alive. The local markets, such as the Sunday market in Puerto Sotogrande, as well as galleries and events are great spots to access local artists work. Make sure you support local businesses and artists like Syrie, following on social media for example makes all the difference in spreading the word. Go to @syriejo.art to see her work on Instagram or go to https://www.lafincafusion.com/ to see more information about the La Finca restaurant.
Back to blog