Preserving the traditions of Spain in art

Chandy at one of her exhibitions in Malaga.
Chandy at one of her exhibitions in Malaga. / Tony Bryant
  • Like so many artists, Chandy Haggett soon became attracted to the colours, aromas and tempo of life in Andalucía

A former plumber, tutor and newspaper cartoonist, 55-year-old Chandy Haggett is probably one of the most innovative artists living on the Costa del Sol today.

Born in London in 1962, Chandy’s life has been far from conventional and her journey to become an artist has been a difficult and sometimes depressing experience.

She first attended Oxford College of Further Education, but after taking a year out to travel, she enrolled at the Banbury College of Art.

However, after marrying her first husband, Chandy dropped out of art college and became one of Britain’s first women plumbers.

Following the failure of her first marriage, the self-confessed tomboy began working as a silk screen printer in Devon, but she soon got the urge to travel again.

Having fallen in love with Spain on a previous backpacking holiday in 1982, Chandy decided to visit her parents, who owned a small farm near Manilva.

Her parents eventually went to live in France, leaving Chandy alone and very much out of her depth in the mountain village of Casares.

Unable to speak a word of Spanish, without money, work, transport or friends, Chandy quickly realised that she would have to do something in order to survive.

“Luckily, I did have a very small roof over my head, although no hot water or toilet, just a bucket and chuck-it loo,” Chandy says.

She decided to return to painting and try to sell her work as a means of subsidising her income. Hitching lifts to the secondhand market in Puerto Banús every Saturday morning, Chandy began to sell her paintings to holidaymakers, although business was not booming.

“Although the villagers of Casares welcomed me with open arms and helped me tremendously, it was a hand to mouth existence and a terribly lonely time in my life. During this period I was, admittedly through sangría-tinted glasses, painting sad, desperate and depressive pictures depicting my mental state,” Chandy explains.

Chandy at work.

Chandy at work. / T.B.

A bohemian by nature, Chandy embarked on the life of an eccentric artist, living like a recluse, sleeping most of the day and drinking and working by night.

She was soon addicted, like many before her, to the mystical spell of Andalucía, becoming attracted to the colours, aromas and tempo of life in Southern Spain.

Realising that the morbid paintings that she been producing were not what the average tourist wanted, she began to develop a unique style of hand silk screen prints.

These depict beautiful landscapes and scenes of rural life, capturing the ferias and fiestas, and the traditional way of life that exists in the Andalusian countryside.

“Immediately falling in love with Spain and its people, I saw things very much in blocks of colour: blue skies, yellow fields, white houses and the gossiping old women dressed in black,” Chandy says with a hint of glee.

She would spend the next 12 years slowly developing and building her style, and her reputation.

Candy’s life changed when she remarried, had children and went to live in Coín, but this did not interfere too much with her artistic life.

She spent several years teaching drawing and silk screen printing at the Marbella Design Academy, but she left this position to further her career as an artist.

She has been commissioned to create several works for local clubs and peñas and she has held several exhibitions of her work on the Costa del Sol, as well as in Gibraltar and France.

“Now, 30 years later, I am still a poor, starving artist in Andalucía, but a very happy one,” she says with a radiant smile.

Chandy works entirely from imagination, never using photography or real life for reference and yet her creations capture a perfect representation of a nostalgic Andalucía.

“Sadly the old traditions are now dying out, but I hope to have captured a memory of them in my work. Andalucía is in my heart and I plan one day to be buried here under an olive tree, but not too soon I hope,” she says, laughing.