Bryan Hemming

short stories, comment, articles, humour and photography

Carmen de la Torre exhibition – ‘new kid on the block’

Rooftop View

Early morning view of Cádiz Cathedral from Carmen’s rooftop patio

Though it may not be much look to at, this is early morning Cádiz viewed from the roof patio of our friend, Carmen. Through a sparse, but eager forest of desperately lean, and culturally-starved TV ariels, you can see the dome and twin towers of the old cathedral beyond. But to really appreciate Cádiz you have to get down onto the streets.

As I’ve said before on this blog, it’s always a real pleasure to wake up in my all-time favourite city of Cádiz. Appropriately known as La ciudad que sonríe, the city that smiles, it’s probably the friendliest city I’ve ever been. Luckily, for me, West Europe’s oldest inhabited metropolis is just an hour’s bus ride away from Conil, where I live.

Morning coffee

Angelica and I had been invited to the opening of Carmen de la Torre’s latest show of acryllic paintings, reflecting the people of Cádiz, at one of the city’s galleries. It was to be her first exhibition after moving from Barcelona.

Sala de exposiciones El Pópulo, is situated in one of the oldest barrios of the city, where Roman ruins and artefacts are being unearthed all the time. I don’t know about in Roman times, but not so long ago it was the haunt of prostitutes and petty criminals, and not so safe to wander round late at night. But things have changed dramatically. As fast as crumbling buildings can be restored and renovated, new bars and restaurants are opening up, making the area a popular evening venue for those rather better off than most of the former residents. Unfortunately, like many other European cities undergoing such changes, a little of the character has also been washed down the drain. But not too much just yet.

Carmen and her partner, Harvey, had invited us to stay at their new flat overnight so that we didn’t have to rush home on the last bus, which left at nine o’ clock. It gave us time to mingle with the artists, who had gathered for the event, and a few of whom collected at a bar opposite after the gallery closed. It was a typically noisy Andalucian evening with everybody talking all at once. You eventually get the hang of it after a few years.


Carmen PopuloCarmen de la Torre and Harvey moved from Barcelona just under a year ago. After buying a flat in the old part of the city, they set about letting their presence be known among the art community without delay. As soon as she moved in Carmen got painting canvases while Harvey got painting walls, putting some of his skills as a former builder (among other things) into making their new home habitable. A man of many talents and skills, before he became Carmen’ s chief assistant, Harvey also used to translate Yiddish poems into English.

Carmen studied art in Seville, a city renowned for its art and artists for centuries. She has worked in animation, and is a talented caricaturist. But she came to Cádiz to devote much more of her time to painting, and has already made many friends in the local arts community.

The group of paintings on show at el Populo have been worked from photos. Many portrait artists use photography to work from, either completely, or combined with sittings. They have  been doing so since photography was invented. Nevertheless, it wasn’t Carmen’s intention to slavishly recreate accurate depictions of photographic images. For her, such an exercise would be pointless. Her intention is to interpret and  produce her own unique vision of day-to-day life in Cádiz by creating mirrors of its people and the lives they live from the simplest activities they engage in. For a carousel of the paintings enlarged, click onto any one.

The exhibition goes under the title Nuevo callejero de Cádiz, which very roughly translates as New kid on the block, and is being held by courtesy of the Ayuntamiento de Cádiz over the month of July. Entrance is free and  the gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm, and again in the evening 6.00 pm to 9.00 pm. It is situated in the the barrio also known as el Populo, not far from the Roman amphitheatre, on Plaza San Martín at the corner of Calle Mesón. Telephone: (+34) 956 259 435.

Following the exhibition, and for the rest of the summer, Carmen will be working at the artists’ studios in the 16th century Castillo de Santa Catalina (Saint Catherine castle). The castle is situated by the old harbour. British schoolchildren with an interest in history will recognise it as the place where Sir Francis Drake “singed the beard of The King of Spain” in 1587. It was here he laid seige to a good part of the Spanish fleet, before setting it alight, as he rampaged up and down the Spanish Atlantic coast. Regarded as a naval hero in England, in Spain he was seen as nothing more than a vicious pirate.

Situated on calle Campo de las Balas, the castle contains a gallery and is open to the public from every day of the week from Monday to Sunday opening at 11.00 am and closing  7.00 pm. Summer hours are from 11.00 am to 8.30pm. Opening hours can vary on concert days, so you may need to check before going. There is also a very pleasant, sheltered beach there.

Forming the other side of the harbour, at the end of a long harbour wall lies another old fortification, el Castillo de San Sebastian (San Sebastian castle).

Knowing what hard time preparing for an exhibition can be, next morning, Angelica and I slipped out of the house early, to suck up the atmosphere of Cádiz waking to a new summer morning, and before Harvey and Carmen got a chance to play diligent host and hostess. They deserved a rest. Besides, Angelica needed to shop for art materials, as she was running low on equipment for her own portraits, and I needed some new guitar strings.

The narrow lanes and streets of old Cádiz are full of bars and cafés. Not all are open at eight in the morning, but you can be sure to find one without having to go far.

La Primavera lies on a corner of calle Rosa. Without pretensions of any sort it’s typical Cádiz, mostly clean and tidy, but showing its age by being a bit frayed at the edges. Just like me, in fact. And a typical breakfast in a typical Andalucian café is café con leche (milky coffee served in a glass) and media tostada (half a bread roll toasted and served with a choice of toppings). My favourite is olive oil spread with a coating of mashed tomatoes.

The morning light is precious. Clean and clear, the air feels extra fresh, as bit of a breeze blows in off the sea. The city is really an island, joined to the mainland by a long manmade causeway, which provides a huge stretch of uncrowded beach for tourists and locals alike. After breakfast we meandered to the art shop, Piccolita, in Plaza de Mina on the other side of the old town. One of the most pleasant of all the leafy squares in the city, it also is the site of the city museum.  In the end, though words can help, a picture tells a thousand stories, so perhaps this gallery of photos I shot will tell even more. For a carousel of the photos enlarged, click onto any one.

For photos of Conil de la Frontera click here

Rules on Comments

Just to remind those who may be unaware. Though I’m very thankful to receive the comments I do, as I know they take up time,  a few people are straying way off subject, and I feel it necessary to point out a couple of things. Primarily, the comments are not just for me, but for all readers to express their opinions and debate.

Neverthess, the comments sections are not general forums, and comments are expected to bear some relevance to the subject of the post. However, I am pretty relaxed about this, particularly if I judge the comment to be topical, of special interest or very amusing.

Although I’m only too happy to link to your posts, in the knowledge this can only strengthen the loose communities forming on WordPress, those posts should be your own work, and not the work of others, due to copyright issues that may occur.

Copyright © 2014 Bryan Hemming

15 comments on “Carmen de la Torre exhibition – ‘new kid on the block’

  1. ginjuh
    July 5, 2014



    • Bryan Hemming
      July 6, 2014

      Carmen tells us she’s really excited to see comments come in from across the other side of the Atlantic, as well as the other side of the world. Thanks, Ginjuh.


  2. auntyuta
    July 4, 2014

    We got up at 2 am this morning to watch the Germans playing the French. Have to come back to this wonderful looking blog of yours, Bryan. I like all the pictures very much!


    • Bryan Hemming
      July 5, 2014

      Thanks Uta, I was up until midnight watching the Brazil Colombia game. Things are hotting up.

      From pitches to pictures.

      Glad you liked the post and pictures.


      • auntyuta
        July 6, 2014

        Yes, I really do like the pictures very much. Bryan. I googled this morning maps of Andalusia. I wanted to see where Conil is in relation to Cadiz. You live in a beautiful place, Bryan. Your beaches remind me of our beaches here at the East coast of Australia. This morning at 6 am our time the game Holland/Costa Rica Soon Germany is going to play Brazil. We are going to watch this.
        You are lucky that it takes you only one hour to get to Cadiz. It takes us two hours by train to get to Sydney.
        Have a great Sunday! Greetings from Australia 🙂


      • Bryan Hemming
        July 6, 2014

        Having watched Brazil lose to Colombia, it’ll be a miracle if they even score against Germany. The loss of Neymar was bad enough, but Silva putting himself out of the semi-final for one of the most stupid and unnecessary fouls of the contest, was fatal.

        Nevertheless, whereas most people deal in possibilites, I take the view one should always consider the impossible, just in case. So, I’ll make a prediction based on that premise.

        If the impossible happens, and Brazil manages to hold Germany off for most of the first half, they stand an incredibly small chance of going one up in just before the half-time whistle blows, as the result of an own goal, and the law of unfair probabilties, which has to take improbability into consideration. That could be as unsettling as finding a dead chicken nailed to your door at this stage of the competition.

        Then, immediately after play recommences, if by some strange alignment of the stars working to their favour, a hurricane starts to blow right into the German goalmouth, setting off a sneezing attack in Manuel Neuer, a Brazilian player could stumble onto the ball by complete accident, diverting it into the goal. All they need to do from that moment on is to hold off the might of the German football team’s relentless, unremitting and merciless attacks for the rest of the match.

        Not a result worth going down to the bookies to place your life savings on, but it could happen.


      • auntyuta
        July 6, 2014

        I don’t know why I keep losing sentences in my reply, Bryan. So the game started at 6 am our time. They are in extended time now and no goals yet!


      • auntyuta
        July 6, 2014

        Netherlands did win in the shoot out!


      • Bryan Hemming
        July 6, 2014

        That’s a match I would’ve liked to have seen Costa Rica win. Still, they did very well, and to force a brilliant team like Netherlands into a penalty shoot-out after the gruelling challenge of extra time is quite a feat for a little nation of less than five million people. Costa Rica has every reason to celebrate such magnificent defeat. It’s the only country in the world that doesn’t have an army.

        I hope you had a lovely Sunday evening yourselves. Local time here is not long after 10am at time of writing.


      • auntyuta
        July 7, 2014

        Hi Bryan, still very cold here in Dapto but in Canberra where our daughter Caroline is at the moment with Matthew the temperatures are below freezing point. We conemplated whether we should go to Canberra too for the week, but then decided we’d rather sty at home! 🙂

        I like the Dutch team and they played well. They probably were a bit better than Costa Rica who also played amazingly well! The Dutch seemed to be very unlucky in just missing the goal quite a few times.

        However both Peter and I did not like Tim Krul’s stare down tactics. It was not fair to the Costa Ricans!

        The following I copied from Google:

        “But he also came under heavy criticism on social media for his intimidating tactics against the Costa Rican penalty takers, staring them down and yelling at them before they took their shots.

        Asked whether he had overstepped the line of good sportsmanship, a defiant Krul said he had nothing to apologise for.
        “I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” he told a news conference at his team’s training ground in Rio on Sunday

        Read more:

        Cheers, Uta


  3. rangewriter
    July 4, 2014

    It is a delicate balancing act for towns and villages to restore a vibrant economy without destroying the unique character of a place. I think my town has accomplished that reasonably well, but it has been a long and difficult process.

    I like Carmen’s portraiture. She has a keen eye for the moment, nothing looks fake or posed and something about her work brings Diego Rivera to my mind. I’m particularly fascinating by the painting of the woman munching a snack.


    • Bryan Hemming
      July 4, 2014

      The woman eating the snack was at the opening. She loves her portrait.


      • rangewriter
        July 4, 2014

        Wow! That’s interesting. I think I’d be apoplectic if I recognized myself in a portrait!


  4. Wendy Kate
    July 4, 2014

    I really like Carmen’s style, particularly the old lady in her slippers! Great shots of Càdiz too, we have only been once but should really get back there again soon. 🙂


    • Bryan Hemming
      July 4, 2014

      Cádiz is definitely beckoning you again, Wendy. With your pad and pencils this time. I heartily recommend a long weekend with plenty of visits to tapas bars and cafés, when the time is exactly right.


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This entry was posted on July 4, 2014 by in Art, Articles, Photos, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , .

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Rules on comments

As the comments sections are not intended to be general forums, comments are expected to bear some relevance to the subject of the post. Nevertheless, I do allow some generous leeway in this, particularly if I judge the comment to be of special interest.

Although I'm only too happy to link to your posts, those posts should be your own work, and not the work of others, due to copyright issues.

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