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Points of departure: The Big Pause

Calçadinha do Tijolo II, 2021.
Oil on wood board, 61x51cms.

Places have become an important point of departure in my art practice since I moved to Lisbon. Perhaps it is specific to my history of moving countries beginning at 6 months old, but it is a much bigger topic than just my individual experience. Place is important to our sense of home and identity, and in some cases represent ideologies and centuries of conflict. However, this is an ongoing preoccupation that I’m sure I’ll be writing more about in the future, so for now, I will stick to telling the story of this particular place in this post.

Calçadinha do Tijolo II was painted in 2021, shortly after moving into my current atelier space. As a Covid transplant to Lisbon, the city was unusually calm and quiet, and on reflection, self-aware – something I wonder whether I will ever experience again. I wanted to make a painting that memorialised the beginning of my life here.

During the first six months, the atelier had a work desk and chair, a small bookcase, a fridge, sink, a few boxes of my art materials, and my hammock. The rest was a sea of empty space. I utilised it by stapling canvases straight onto the walls and moving from painting to painting according to my mood. I occasionally climbed into my hammock to read a book or contemplate how to best utilise the space. I drew floorplans and learned about the changes in light across the seasons. Slowly I began to add plants, a rug, pillows, and a space heater. As my space changed and filled up with more work, old and new, my view of the outside wasn’t changing at the same rate. The ‘Big Pause’ gave me time, which was comforting and I wanted to remember it.

The name Atelier do Tijolo has been inherited from it’s last occupants, a co-working studio. It is situated within the winding streets of Alfama, one of the oldest areas of Lisbon, halfway between the Tagus River and Castelo de São Jorge. I love the idea of people wandering, getting lost, and happening upon my atelier. The first two years after I officially opened my doors to the public, this certainly seemed the case. I met people from all over the world who wandered in and told me their stories.

The reality, once life regained it’s usual frenetic pace, seems to be that most people, when lost, are really on their way somewhere. Perhaps there isn’t as much time to wander and get lost anymore. Today, outside the atelier, the streets are busier and noisier. The people who do visit me are looking for me through Google. And I’ve been told multiple times, that a) it’s hard to find me, and b) that the space has a stillness and tranquility in contrast to the bustling city outside. Perhaps now outside is changing faster than I am.

Calçadinha do Tijolo II, 2021 is available for sale through my website and can be seen at Atelier do Tijolo.