Thursday, July 11, 2013

A rare exhibition by artist Colin Figue

  Colin Figue, an outstanding artist of international repute who has lived in the Algarve for nearly four decades, is soon to hold his first public exhibition here since 1989.
While best known for large abstract sculptures in marble, his month-long exhibition opening 20th July in the Galeria Santo António, Monchique, will feature paintings and welded iron sculptures.
The Monchique display will be a rare opportunity for those who have not had the pleasure of visiting Figue’s private studio and sculpture garden near Carvoeiro. 
It was while studying at the School of Sculpture in the Royal Academy of Art in London in the 1960s that Figue began to feel a sense of vocation and what sculpture could be.
He describes it now as “the feeling that life was infinitely more meaningful and profound than it appeared on the surface, that everything was somehow connected, the inner space of the mind, dream and reflection fusing with the world at large and the boundless mystery of space and time. 
“Men were landing on the moon and challenging our preconceptions. It seemed that making sculpture could be like trying to split the atom, a continual voyage of exploration and discovery. I bought a magnifying glass and started to look more closely at things and to discover forgotten links already written in stone.”
Private patronage allowed him to travel, study and create in Spain and Brazil as well in England. Through his retired parents who were then living in the Algarve, he discovered the quality of light and other special features still so appreciated by artists here today.
His love of southern Portugal was enhanced in 1974 when the already well-established Irish painter and author Patrick Swift of Porches Pottery fame encouraged him to come and work here.
During many of his post-Royal Academy adventures, Figue was accompanied by his girlfriend, later his wife, Mort, a painter and ceramic artist. In 1977 and again in 1979, the British Council awarded them both scholarships that gave the opportunity of working in the marble quarries of the Alentejo. It was there that he produced his first large-scale sculptures.
Since setting up home and studio near Carvoeiro he has interspersed long periods of secluded creativity with trips abroad to explore foreign cultures and to participate in international symposiums in places as diverse as China, Guatemala, Dubai, Turkey, Korea, Morocco and Germany. He is represented with sculptures in public collections in countries such as Belize, France, Italy, Slovakia, Japan, Taiwan, India and Lebanon.
Meeting other artists abroad has “mitigated the fact that I chose the edge of Europe as my home base. It has taken me out of cultural isolation,” he says.
 “Harmonious, timeless, perfect, the sculptures of Colin Figue are rooted in the classical tradition,” wrote the English painter Richard Caston in previewing a retrospective exhibition of his work at the British Council in Lisbon in 1994. Caston described Figue, who has the distinction of being an elected member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, as “first and foremost a carver of stone, one of the finest working today.”
A very different side of his work will be on show in Monchique. “A few of the paintings  date back to the mid-nineties and were fired up by my first visit to India in 1995,” he says. “I was overwhelmed by the brilliance of light and colour there and the way they are used in acts of celebration and devotion. Back in my studio I searched for a palette and began to experiment with oils and acrylics and a mix of media.
“The iron pieces are from 2004. In contrast to my usual choice of stone as material for sculpture, these works are like three dimensional drawings, projections into space that cast  changing shadows suggesting cyclic motion and the passage of time.”
Having turned 70 this year, Figue says he is slowing down in some respects. “I am spending more time painting, but with the same sense of purpose and conviction and wonder at the universe we inhabit that I felt as a student.”

* The Galeria Santo António is opposite the post office and near the market in central Monchique. The  exhibition opens at 8.0pm on 20th July. It will run until 21st August, Tuesdays to Sundays 10.0am-12.20pm, 3.30pm-7.0pm. The iron sculptures will remain on show until 20th October.
Anyone wishing to visit Figue’s studio and sculpture garden at Chamuscas, Estrada de Benagil, Lagoa, can either drop by with the chance of finding him at home, or call to make an appointment: 282 341628.

Artist’s website:

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