Restless and prolific, Pedro Guimarães discusses planning for what was his first solo exhibition in the South
At times of great work intensity, Pedro Guimarães sleeps around three hours a day. At 7.30am, the artist, who shares his last name with the city in Minho where he was born, is already in his studio. This is where he spends his day and where he returns after dinner with the family: “I put music on and work until 3.30am,” he tells us by phone.
The 45-year-old painter and sculptor belongs to the (fortunately growing) group of Portuguese artists who can live solely off their art. His uninterrupted workflow is assured by the many exhibitions he organises all over the world and the many requests he receives — from galleries ordering works for specific clients (which take at least six months to complete), or interior architects and designers, who design walls with his generous installations already in mind.
This is how it has been for 15 years, ever since the Guimarães native decided to dedicate all his time to painting, sculptures and 3D installations, and the buzz and long hours in his studio show this, especially when Pedro is working on new pieces, such as the ones he showcased at Conrad Algarve on April 18, as part of the partnership between the five-star hotel in Quinta do Lago and ArtCatto gallery in Loulé.
Provisionally titled Colourful Souls, the exhibition comprised 15 to 20 large-scale pieces, in the artist’s traditional in-your-face, colourful, figurative and multi-perspective style, and featured works such as three-dimensional pieces in wood and a 6m-tall installation — a mix of painting and sculpture — which were displayed at Conrad’s entrance.
“It’s an illuminated piece, which can be placed indoors or outside, with a generous format, but these pieces work well in large formats,” he explains.
The exhibition, which ran until June 10, was Pedro’s first solo showing this far south in Portugal.
The collaboration between the Algarve gallery and the artist came about in spring of last year, when the head of ArtCatto London saw his work in Porto. Pedro later welcomed two Algarve representatives and there was an immediate empathy, which led to the partnership.
ArtCatto now joins a group of national and international galleries that have hosted Guimarães’ work, including the famous Georges Bergès Gallery in New York, where he will exhibit later this year, and the Opera Gallery in Monaco, which displayed his pieces over the summer. His work is also featured in countless private collections worldwide, from Sweden to the United States.
Pedro Guimarães was always good at drawing and knew from early on that art was his calling. At 16 he won a painting competition in Braga, which resulted in his first solo showcase.
“I haven’t stopped doing exhibitions since,” he states.
Balancing painting with his studies in Creative Drawing for the Textile Industry, he moved to Cantabria, Spain, in 2001, where worked for two years for his father, who owned a group of textile companies. Pedro’s relationship with this Spanish region, known for its contrasting landscape of mountains and sea, lives on to this day. From an artistic point of view, his stay there was equally prolific: not only did he receive the Cantabria Art award in 2005, presented to him by renowned artists Fernando Bermejo, Francisco Santibanez and sculptor Emília Trueba, the necessary ‘push’ to pledge exclusivity to his paint brushes, it also served to spike his inspiration.
“It was a time of introspection, I was away from my family and friends, and it helped me put together a lot of ideas,” he recalls.
Despite his long career, Guimarães believes his style and language have not changed that much over time, although his subjects have clearly evolved.
“I am still searching for new ways for people to look at my work, using different materials. Art is communication; when you communicate the same way all the time, people stop listening,” he explains. “I try to never abandon my identity while using different materials, such as neon, lights, wooden slats or acrylic. I work many hours a day, it would be monotonous and demoralising to always do the same thing.”
Still, over time, he has gathered his artistic characteristics into a “more complete and complex” language, in a work that fluctuates between abstract and figurative and which features many portraits, such as one of former First Lady of Portugal Maria Cavaco Silva and fado singer Carlos do Carmo (which was on display at the Fado Museum in Lisbon, in 2016).
“I am defined by the figurative: it has more content and it offers audiences a certain degree of free interpretation, which is interesting. I also paint hands a lot, they are super expressive.”
And the expressive hands of Pedro Guimarães produced one of the most vibrant exhibitions by a Portuguese artist in the Algarve this year.