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Posted by portugalpress on February 12, 2018
Sculpture by a student at Peter van Borssum Waalkes’ Workshop (May 2015)
‘Serris’ by Robert Schad
‘Cruz Alta’ in Fátima by Robert Schad
Sculpture in wood by Freeke Klerecoper
Sculpture by Lucas van Blaaderen
Sculpture by Lucas van Blaaderen

“In Europe, the presence of olive trees defines the Mediterranean region,” writes Richard Mabey in his book The Cabaret of Plants (2015). He describes how the olive vegetation and especially the light inspired impressionist painters such as Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Gaugin as well as the modern Picasso and Matisse and others to live and work in the sun.

Renoir thought that the light on the olive trees “sparkles like diamonds”. When Mabey visited Spain, he felt “an afterglow in the eyes” from the colours of the wild poppies, from the rufous plumage of feeding hoopoes and from scraps of burning sky reflecting off the silver leaves. Mabey’s feelings about living in a Mediterranean climate strike a chord.

We enjoy in the Algarve a colourful and inspirational landscape, and much of the colour is provided by rocks and other hard materials. My personal description of the colour of the sky is “an impossible blue” and my rock collection includes red, purple, yellow, ochre stones.

As they escape cold and wet climates and the hustle and bustle of city living, artists of many different nationalities find inspiration in the Algarve. For example, was it fate or coincidence which led glass artist Taran Flaten to find her perfect place in the Algarve in the hamlet of Corte Vidreiro?

Sculptor Lucas van Blaaderen now based in Boa Vista, Tavira, specialised at first in figurative work and natural subjects, and over time gradually became more interested in abstract or extracted sculptures. His work has been exhibited mainly in the Netherlands at centres such as the Wetering Galerie, Tiel Museum, at Zaltbommel, Arnhem, Utrecht, Maurik and Nijmegen. Lucas first visited the Algarve in 1986 and, like so many of us, he became convinced that the Algarve is a good place to live. Lucas sculpted with many experimental materials, such as bronze, concrete and wood, and has moved to working in stone.

The visual artist Freeke Klerekoper states on her website that “for years, visual art and working with my hands have been my passion”. Freeke is a lively character who regularly visits the Algarve for inspiration. She has to travel by road because while she is in the Algarve, her workshop is the back of her van.

Freeke studied at the Art Academy in Utrecht and the Sculpture Centre in Koudum and her gallery is in Warns in the Netherlands. She works in stone, bronze, wood and ceramics, and has exhibited in many towns and cities in the Netherlands and in 2013 at Praia Verde in Portugal.

Recently, a sculpture appeared just off the EN270 to the east of Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo. I was intrigued, because the piece stands alone among orange trees in a property called ‘Telo’. This sculpture (named ‘Serris’) is part of a temporary exhibition (2017 - 2018) called ‘Percurso Lusitano’ by the sculptor Robert Schad and his project involves exhibiting 50 sculptures in 20 different locations in Portugal. ‘Serris’ is the only sculpture in this exhibition to be located to the south of Lisbon, in the twin Freguesias of Santo Estêvão and Santa Luzia.

Robert has been described as one of the most accomplished sculptors working with steel. He does not bend the steel bars - he welds together straight elements of differing lengths ... “thus emerges a continuous form of human proportions that unfurls through space with terpsichorean grace”.

He was born in 1953 in Ravensburg and he has homes in France and Chamosinhos on the Minho River near Valença, because from the 1980s he was inspired by the way of life in rural Northern Portugal.

His drive as a sculptor is to communicate with landscapes, architecture and people, and to create “three dimensional questions”. He states clearly that he is not a “decorator of places”. He gains inspiration from his teacher at the Art Academy of Karlsruhe - Albrecht von Hancke, from the steel sculptures of Julio González, from nature itself and his own emotional responses and reflections. The biggest sculpture he has produced to date is the largest crucifix in the world, the ‘Cruz Alta’ in Fátima.

Many people have heard of Quintinha da Música near Santo Estêvão as they attend the classical music concerts there. In an artistic crossover, owner pianist Irene Ainstein hosts an annual sculpture and art weekend masterclass.

Students of sculpture travel (mainly) from Holland and the UK to take inspiration from the magnificent light, the scenery and the tranquility here in the Algarvean hills.

Expert advice is provided by Peter van Borssum Waalkes, a well-known Dutch sculptor, who also gave me my first insight into sculpting. Most other art forms add material to create effect, whereas sculpting is the reverse process – “it is exciting to learn that a form can be created by removing material” to produce a figurative or abstract work of art in three dimensions.

Nearby, on the main EN270 road, Quinta das Artes is the base of the German artist Johannes von Zweizell, who amusingly describes himself as a direct descendant of the LUCA family. LUCA is an acronym for Last Universal Common Ancestor, and his meaning is that we are all related. Johannes has an obvious sense of humour and is a lateral thinker!

Johannes has a wide range of exciting artistic projects including video art and his da Vinci Project, which I shall discuss next month.

People may ask, “where can we see these sculptures?” Many are not on public display because of the danger of theft, but we may appreciate them through photographs.

By Lynne Booker

Lynne Booker, along with her husband Peter, founded the Algarve History Association.