Sculpting Wonders: Conrad Algarve hosts sculpture ...

Sculpting Wonders: Conrad Algarve hosts sculpture exhibition

By: Ben Austin

Conrad Algarve hosts a sculpture exhibition curated by Artcatto gallery

Over the years, Artcatto and the Conrad Algarve hotel have developed an incredibly creative partnership. Together they have produced a series of memorable events and shows, such as national themed evenings, like the Chinese and Indian experience complete with original artwork by leading artists of each region, combined with a celebration of cuisine and culture.

Another well-received exhibition was the urban art show Off the Wall, showcasing up-and-coming young Portuguese street artists. Some of their pieces can still be found in the hotel’s car park, providing the perfect backdrop to after-party events.

Over the summer of 2019, Artcatto joined forces with Corand to showcase the works of James Gill, a rediscovered American Pop artist from Texas who exhibited with Andy Warhol in New York in the 1960s; as well as the rising star in the Portuguese Pop Art scene, Pedro Guimarães, whose clever optical artwork has attracted international interest and high-profile collectors.

The recent show is not the first time that Artcatto has staged an exhibition of sculptural work at Conrad — in 2015, the gallery brought to the hotel acclaimed sculptor Philip Jackson, who has undertaken numerous important public commissions, which can be found all over the United Kingdom, such as of Queen Elizabeth II, Bomber Command and Mahatma Gandhi, in London.

They have also showcased the wonderful wooden constructed animals of Sophie Dickens, who happens to be the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens; as well as the highly sought-after carved wooden animal pieces by Jürgen Lingl-Rebetez.

This past summer’s show of international artists includes Sam Shendi, Paulo Neves, Eleanor Stride, Anneke Bester, Mondo and Jonty Hurwitz and ran until the end of September. Sam Shendi is an Egyptian-British sculptor, who has been gaining a lot of attention of late for his large-scale, vividly coloured and somewhat surreal pieces.

The artist understands the impact of size, of the monumental — as a student he saw the impressive organic bronze forms by the Modernist master Henry Moore and likewise wanted his sculpture to ‘fill the space’. But unlike Moore, Shendi creates pieces without the aid of sketches and maquettes, conceiving the completed work in his head and then immediately setting about making it into a reality. His background in design and furniture production means that his technical skills are superlative, and the pieces are constructed from a durable fibre resin and then sprayed with car paint and polished to high finish, which allows his work to be placed indoors or outdoors without succumbing to the weather and time.

Sam Shendi

The sculptures that were on show at Conrad Algarve were part of his Only Human series and referred to the fragilities and emotions that we all experience. Shendi enjoys playing between the notions of figuration and abstraction. He incorporated a colour-coding system to the work, inferring feelings to each colour — red signifies anger, while white relates to purity and even hope. The primary colours and swirling patterns hark back to a different era, with a nod to ‘60s psychedelia. The artist also delved into aspects of nostalgia, memory and childhood as well as fear. Despite its undercurrents of seriousness and personal reflection, Sam’s work can also be playful. Bystanders cannot help but to smile at the figure bent over backwards in Falling into the Past as everyone can identify with that seemingly impossible feat, but we are also prone to the psychological trap that the title implies.

The universal acclaim for Shendi’s work is ever growing and he has developed quite a considerable fan base on social media. His futuristic work was even selected to be in the art collection of Marvel’s Iron Man — it appears in Tony Stark’s house in the film Avengers: Age of Ultron. He is a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors and won the First@108 Public Art Award in 2013. It has been recently announced that his piece Split Decision has been selected as the winner for Liverpool Plinth Public Art Award 2019 and will be on the Plinth for a year beginning this past June.

Another artist who was featured in this exhibition who has prominent public art piece is Portuguese sculptor Paulo Neves, who, through Artcatto, was recently commissioned to create a centrepiece for a roundabout in Loulé. For this, Neves carved rough circular patterns into semi-columns, onto which are mounted abstract, colourful fish-like forms on metallic rods. Titled Ponto de Encontro (meeting point), the sculpture is an homage to the all the different expat communities living in the Algarve town.

Paulo Neves

The human form captured in dynamic movement is the vital subject for both British-French sculptor Eleanor Stride and South African-New Zealand sculptor Anneke Bester. Stride studied at the Norwich School of Art, the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologne, Italy, and obtained her Masters diploma from the New York Studio School. She is first and foremost a modeller, someone who explores the potentiality material and constructs her pieces with clay and plaster, resin, metal, wire and bronze.

It is all in the process of fabrication, the adding and the subtraction, which give her work an incredible authenticity of craftsmanship. Take for example the piece L’Envol (the flight), where the figure is finely and gracefully poised in mid-landing or taking off. The lattice framework lends the piece a lightness and delicacy which perfectly fits the subject. Eleanor is fascinated by dancers, acrobats and children at play, and this balletic sculpture is clearly inspired by Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

Anneke Bester is an artist who is also intrigued by the female form and the drama of gesture but perhaps in a more sensual way. Her figures are consciously exaggerated in proportion and posture. There is flamboyance within the sexuality, with her subjects often trailing billowing fabric, adding fluidity and movement.

Finally, we turn to the animal kingdom for the remaining two artists who were featured in the exhibition, and they couldn’t be more contrasting. Mondo was born in San Francisco, California, and now lives in the Algarve. He trained as a building and plumbing contractor, where he mastered the technical skills of welding and a deep understanding of the properties of certain metals, especially copper. The American reclaims scraps and welds the pieces together to create impressive large-scale wildlife animals, which are then highly polished.

Mondo (©Garry Samuels)

As an artist, Mondo is clearly interested in sustainability and the environment. His Hammerhead Shark and Manta Ray are ideally installed hanging from a ceiling, giving the impression of the creature in its natural habitat. The raw technique of construction highlights not only the majestic quality of the animals but that they are under threat and must be protected.

The final artist was Jonty Hurwitz, who one might describe as a mathematical genius, a term not to be used lightly. Jonty was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and holds a Bachelor of Science Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand.

Jonty Hurwitz

His artwork is a startling mix of science and craftsmanship. The Red Eyed Tree Frog – Pura Vida can be seen complete in vivid detail in the reflection of a metallic circular tube from the distorted and stretched physical form. The science behind such a creation is beyond description, but suffice to say the end result is breathtakingly beautiful.

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