Work is progressing to transform the tree into a work of art / SUR

Still life comes alive in Vélez-Málaga

A local sculptor and a gallery owner are working to convert one of the four centenary ficus trees that died last summer into sculptures that symbolise the Axarquía town

Eugenio Cabezas
EUGENIO CABEZAS

Last summer one of the four hundred year old ficus trees in Parque de Andalucía in Vélez-Málaga was certified dead. When local sculptor José Casamayor and gallery owner Fernando Gil heard the news, they decided to present a project to the town hall to transform what remained of the tree after most of it had been chopped down into a sculpture.

In December the artists were given the commission and signed a contract with the council for their project and they set themselves a deadline of one month to finish the work. Working up to ten hours a day, the two artists are making animals and objects from what were once branches, trunks and roots of the tree that had been a landmark in the town for centuries.

Despite effort by the town hall to revive the tree, it was certified dead in June 2022. However, thanks to Casamayor and Gil’s tireless work, it is already 'sprouting' a Malaga goat, a chameleon, a flamenco guitar, books, a cat, pigeons and a few snails.

Tributes to local personalities

According to the two artists a bird of prey is next on the list. "We still don't know which bird it will be, it depends on what the wood will give us," Fernando Gil said.

The books and the cat are a tribute to the philosopher María Zambrano, who was born in the town and said to have been a great lover of cats. The guitar pays tribute to local flamenco icons such as Juan Breva and Gitanillo de Vélez.

The snails are a tribute to José Martín Ortega, 'Miguiña', a local poet who died in 1956. The pigeons are a common sight in Vélez-Málaga and “the Malaga goat is a species native to the province”, as is the chameleon, “which is still in danger of extinction," Gil added.

Their intention is to have the work ready by the end of this month. "We still have to do a few last touches to all the sculptures, finish polishing them and give them a varnish treatment to protect them," said the art gallery owner.

Other sculptures

The project in Vélez-Málaga is not the first that the two artists have carried out in the province. A few years ago they completed a similar sculpture on a large eucalyptus tree that had also died in Churriana. "The town hall and the local residents liked it very much; there is also a chameleon, birds and cats," Gil explained.

Casamayor is also behind Hercules and the lions in Vélez, a mule in Arenas, a male torso on the promenade in Benalmádena and a window in the water in the Baños del Carmen in Malaga city, among others. Now this new piece will be added to his list; a tribute to the history and culture of Vélez, bringing back to life a much-loved ficus tree.