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Meet the Artists Who Have Made Lisbon Home

Soleil Noir, 2018, from the exhibition SOLEIL NOIR at Las Palmas
Soleil Noir, 2018, from the exhibition SOLEIL NOIR at Las Palmas | © Henrique Pavão / courtesy of Hugo Cantegrel
Lisbon’s sunlight, laid-back living, and welcoming locals are part of what has been attracting artists from all around the world to this beautiful city. Each has his/her own story to tell, so we at the Culture Trip thought to introduce you to a few of them. Meet four artists who are happy to now call Lisbon home.

Mia Dudek: photographer

Where are you from and how long have you lived in Lisbon?

“I’m from Poland. I was born in the South—the most industrial part of the country—but spent my teenage life in Warsaw. When I graduated from high school, I moved to London to study photography at the London College of Communication and The Royal College of Art. I spent 10 years there.

“Last year was a time of big decisions in my life and one of them was to move to Lisbon. I have been here since March.”

Portrait © Mia Dudek

Describe your creative niche

“I consequently explore the encounter of the body and the alienation of the individual within urban fabrics; physicality being broken and a rupture in the barrier that allows for human interconnectivity, metamorphosing and embodying sensory consciousness, detaching and re-formulizing it into new structures.

“Since graduating from the Royal College of Art, I shifted from only using photography as a medium, as a material, and a surface. I also make sculptures in concrete and silicone, work with latex, investigate the idea of assemblage and the connection between synthetic materials and different photographic techniques, and I use found metal objects, like construction site fence panels.”

What do you like most about living in Lisbon as an artist?

“Life as an artist is very uncertain in itself. The political situation in London after Brexit caused me even more uncertainty and anxiety. I started to fear how London is changing, how it is money driven, and how everyone is struggling and trying to survive on the bare minimum, therefore losing the sense of closeness was a simple but profound matter.

“In Lisbon, people are kind, relaxed, and very well educated. They enjoy life, spend a lot of time together, and never work on the weekends! As a Polish person,(this city feels) very familiar because of the similarities and values we share (which I missed in London). Also, my 100 square meter art studio with my own little apartment above it (which, by the way, I would never be able to afford in London) is an incredible upgrade in my living standards. I am finally working and creating, having more freedom and more time to think and to be.”

How would you describe Lisbon’s creative scene?

“It is undoubtedly much smaller than the ones in Paris, London, or New York, but much more vivid and open than in Berlin—which is considered the second art camp after London.

“I’d like to think that I am in the first wave of artists moving to Lisbon, which will be followed by a big movement! Because Lisbon’s art scene is growing rapidly, it is saturated, it has huge potential and there is loads of space for international artists. The awareness of the market is well developed, very open for young emerging artists, unlike in Athens or Berlin, and there is a possibility to actually make a living as an artist. You can feel the art vibes, the air bubbling, and the perspective of being a part of something new. This is very exciting.”

How does Lisbon inspire you?

“Theme-wise, I am quite consistent. As described above, my practice is developed in its concept for many years. But the environment I am in, the people who surround me, and the natural flow of the city inspires me to do, and experiment, more. I have more courage to try making works that I always wanted to do but I wouldn’t in London because of the lack of space and money to produce and store. Tomaz Hipolito’s studio, where I am currently on residency, is a very charismatic place. Everything is on a bigger scale here.”

Photography/Skin Studies © Mia Dudek
Mia Dudek photography © Mia Dudek

Renzo Marasca: painter

Where are you from and how long have you lived in Lisbon?

“I’m Italian and currently living here for two years. After a few years of traveling and living in several (European) cities, I decided to move to Lisbon. For me, Lisbon is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and the cosmopolitan culture, that is very strong here, comes from the history of Portugal. In Lisbon, this kind of cosmopolitan influence is evident. For me, this is one of the most important features of the city.”

Renzo Marasca © Renzo Marasca

How does Lisbon inspire you?

“At my current solo show at the Galeria FOCO in Lisbon, I focus on one of the most important cosmopolitan intellectuals and poet, called Giuseppe Ungaretti. The attitude of the city and the history of Ungaretti, (inspired me to) write this: “Now from this city, looking more at the sea than at the land, I feel to write to you those words. I feel embarrassed and awed, because your figure has passed through life to reach the value of ideals. I stole this from you, I borrowed it as a pledge to the memory, trying to give body to something that consciousness leads me to do, that my hands has traced and my eye has seen.” I think that in these lines, it is possible to understand what I mean when I speak about the city’s attitude. The bright light and the sea really change the perspective, and the influences that come from most of the rest of the world make Lisbon a truly unique city in Europe.”

What do you like most about living in Lisbon as an artist?

“The light! Light is a way of being in the world; it is the one thing that makes things visible by giving preference to certain forms rather than others. In my opinion, light corresponds to the mood of a specific culture and, in fact, it privileges the peculiar aspects that are then found in the ways of life of the people who live in the city. Here one has the impression of being far from the frenetic modernity of (Central Europe), and perhaps the strong presence of the ocean has a great influence, giving a different value to time, that I would call it celebratory.”

How would you describe Lisbon’s creative scene?

“Lisbon, despite being a European capital, thanks to its geographic conformation, is not dispersive. Here you can experience the art scene and the creativity that the city offers, with extreme simplicity. You can easily meet people and exchange contacts, also helped by a special predisposition of the city to be welcoming. In addition to this, for a long time, I felt the need to confront myself, as an artist, with a conception of art coming from Africa or Brazil. Also, in this case, the ideas and cultural influences that the city offer are numerous and often unpublished. Lisbon is the last European capital that looks to the west.”

Painting Title: Giugno – gouache and felt tip pen on canvas, 2018; on display at Galeria FOCO until 12, July 2018 © Renzo Marasca

Hugo Cantegrel: Installations

Where are you from and how long have you lived in Lisbon?

“I am from Paris, France. I studied in London, at the Central Saint Martins and right after my studies, I moved to Lisbon. This was three years ago.”

Hugo Cantegrel at The Switch Gallery © Hugo Cantegrel

Describe your creative niche

“I work with installation, and my main concern is about composition. I’m looking for a certain visual musicality, a certain theatricality in the installation. In this way, some works are main characters; some others have a subordinate role. Some bring a dynamic for the eye of the viewer, some act as silences.”

How does Lisbon inspire you?

“I cannot say that Lisbon inspires my work directly, but it does bring peace and calm that reflects on my way of working rather than my work itself. And Lisbon’s light is quite enjoyable.”

What do you like most about living in Lisbon as an artist?

“I love working with Portuguese craftsmen. For instance, I work with two older men who have been working with neon light for decades. They are passionate and always happy to work with artists. The ceramic scene in Portugal is also very important. I work a lot with a studio called Sedimento. This is where I make all of my ceramic pieces.”

How would you describe Lisbon’s creative art scene?

“Lisbon’s art scene is rather small, but that is growing every day. Some new galleries and new projects open on a regular basis. I recently exhibited in an artist-run gallery called Las Palmas, an ongoing project that isn’t one year long but is full of promises. Foco Gallery, directed by Ben Gonthier, is also one of these young galleries where I showed my work. The program is really bringing fresh air to Lisbon’s art scene that is very formal. I can also speak about The Switch. The artist Skoya offers a space for young artists to exhibit and often do their first solo shows.”

Soleil Noir, 2018, from the exhibition SOLEIL NOIR at Las Palmas © Henrique Pavão / courtesy of Hugo Cantegrel
View of the exhibition: ONE DAY IT WILL ALL MAKE SENSE, 2017 at Foco Gallery © Joana Duarte / courtesy of Hugo Cantegrel

Denise Fernandes: Video/Film

Where are you from and how long have you lived in Lisbon?

“Sometimes, I wish I could give a short answer to this question! Actually, I have three passports. I was born in Lisbon from Cape Verdean parents and left Portugal when I was very little. I grew up in Southern Switzerland, the Italian-speaking side. I came back to Lisbon one-and-a-half years ago and rediscovered the city from zero.”

Portrait © Denise Fernandes

Describe your creative niche

How does Lisbon inspire you?

“Lisbon inspires me by letting myself be inspired. The city has a gentle effect on me that allows me to focus and create. There is a great and nurturing cultural environment to be involved in. She (Lisbon is a woman, right?) offers food for the soul on an everyday basis: film retrospectives, exhibitions of emerging artist, street art… and also the chance to make nature getaways without having to go too far.”

What do you like the most about living in Lisbon as an artist?

“The fact that the city is expanding and evolving, and as a consequence, the same is happening to the art scene.”

How would you describe Lisbon’s creative scene?

“I can’t really catch it or frame yet, maybe because there is not a need to label it. Today I would say: ‘plural’ and mysterious.”

Still image © Denise Fernandes
Still image 2 © Denise Fernandes