Three terms it took me in metalwork, pulverising a chunk of tin to turn it into a wobbly candle holder that even my Mum wouldn’t show off. So my admiration for La Orotava sculptor Julio Nieto is immense, I am totally in awe of his Piel De Metal (Skin Of Metal) exhibition in Santa Cruz. If turning heads is the aim of street art, then the seven pieces in Calle Valentin Sanz, are certainly proving a big success, locals and tourists alike were stopping, smiling, posing for photos and generally interrupting their daily bustle.
It took Julio seven years, crafting one piece a year, to complete the collection, not that it consumed all of his time, the talented artist has plenty of other works on the go and also makes distinctive and expressive metal furniture. I caught Julio checking up on La Llamada (The Calling) and he explained his creative process. “I like to bring out the resonance of the metal” he says pointing to the intricate straining sinews and muscles in the shining body that dwarfs us. Leaning in further he picks out more key points “I use industrial metal and solder the pieces together” the small connecting points work well adding to the boldness of the work.
Not all the pieces rely on sharpness and precision, Viajero (The Traveller) has a darker textured quality with a globe of the world for an eye. Marea looks at first glance like the fisher woman statues that pay homage around Tenerife, but closer inspection reveals that this lady is made up of fish, right up to her hair and stingray shaped basket on her head.
I was a bit peeved that the early sun had retreated behind clouds for a while but Julio was keen to point out that these are sculptures for all seasons. “They take on different qualities in differing light, the sun adds a new glint and at night the street lamps refract off in a myriad of ways.”
A cat stretches proudly looking down on Plaza del Principe, its title Y Alicia? refers to Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland. If puss has just jumped out of a children’s book, further along a wild flailing human figure leaps out of the world of legends. Icaro Salvado shows Icarus with his feather and candle wax wings in tatters after flying too close to the heat of the sun. If some of the imagery is lost on the passers by, they all seem to appreciate the style and adventure of the works, just a few weeks after a wild Carnaval it takes a lot to wow the people of Santa Cruz but Julio Nieto’s metal creations have rattled more than a few cages.
Piel de Metal is on permanent display until 18 March, just up from Plaza de España, take a right turn off Calle Castillo.
Piel de Metal will then be on tour, provisional dates are
Granadilla 8 to 18 April
Vilaflor 19 to 30 April
Icod 20 to 31 may
Garachico 22 July to 1 August