I had originally just wanted to find out who made those brilliant ‘fishnet rubbish bins’ (I don’t know what else to call them), that you can find on the beaches of Armação de Pêra, Praia Grande de Pêra, Praia das Pescadores (Albufeira), and even on the Ilha de Tavira (as far as I have been able to find out, there could very well be more). These large sculptures work as an ‘Ecoponte’ where people are encouraged ‘not to let their plastic become part of the ocean’ and to feed their plastic packaging through the gaping mouth and into the empty belly of these huge metallic wire fish. It’s certainly the coolest rubbish bin I have ever seen, and a brilliant way to make people think of the plastic problem and how, if they are not careful, their discarded plastic could very well make its way into the stomach of the ocean’s wildlife.
So, I was thinking that this would make a pretty nice story for the Renature section, and started to ask around to see if anybody knew who was responsible for them? Nobody seemed to know, so I thought I’d try to explain to Google what I meant, and after a bit of digging I managed to get myself a name: Carlos De Oliveira Correia.
But hang on just a minute... Pictures of some other very familiar statues and artwork started popping up too. It soon became clear that the same person was responsible for all those beautiful (I don’t know what else to call them either) ‘holey metal statues’ that you can find eternally enjoying a nice day out by doing things like running, yoga, playing golf, or simply sitting and enjoying the views in Alvor and Silves. It also looked like he had made many other types of incredible metal sculptures all across the Algarve.
But it was hard to find out exactly what, and where? It wasn’t as if he had an Instagram page where you could find the entire catalogue of his work in picture-perfect quality. Nope. Whoever this dude was, he was obviously the real deal, and if you want to admire his work it’s there waiting for you to stumble across it, in the real world.
Nevertheless, I was determined to track him down and find out more. I did manage to get in contact with him and asked if it would be alright if I came to his workshop to meet him? He agreed and sent me a picture of his card with his GPS coordinates on it. I entered them into my phone and set off on a big adventure east, out into the spectacular hills behind Castro Marim. Google Maps kept losing me and changing its mind on directions, and it was all starting to feel a bit like a wild goose chase. Which made it all the more amusing I thought, when I did finally get to his house and was chased back into my car by an actual wild goose, that told me in no uncertain terms what it thought of me. I must have been the first person ever to actually find the wild goose and it wasn’t pleased.
But was I really in the right place? Luckily, after I had rushed back to my car and driven a little further down the dirt track, past some chickens, pigs and massive dogs, I started to see some familiar statues.
I had found the workshop. Outside there were ballerinas on their tiptoes mid pirouette, cross-legged metallic yogis, Ronaldo frozen upside down scoring a backwards goal amidst a whole host of other marvellous metallic creations. Inside the workshop I found the man himself, who came out wearing a straw hat and a cheeky smile.
Originally from Angola, Carlos has, as you might imagine, always been working with metal, but he started making these amazing imaginative sculptures 15 years ago, with his first one being the ‘Caçador’ in Alcoutim. Since then he’s clearly been prolifically churning them out, with each one he said taking him an average of 2 months to complete. His work can now be spotted all over the Algarve, starting in his hometown with a 3-metre tall knight on horseback at the Castro Marim roundabout.
He’s got quite a few works in São Brás do Alportel, with a roundabout of a family releasing some metal birds on the Avenida de Liberdade to celebrate the 25 de Abril. There’s also a full-size replica of an aeroplane (with a propeller that spins in the wind) outside the indoor municipal swimming pool. This was all I could manage to get out of him, but his work, I’m told, can be found as far afield as Aljezur.
Looking around his workshop, metal donkeys, farmers and even a huge podium of village dancers that he’s working on for the folklore group in Faro continued to jump out at me. I asked him where he got all his ideas from and found out that like most artists, writers or musicians, they might have a vision of what they would like to create, but lots of things, like the composer Stravinsky once put it, “come while you are at the piano”. To illustrate exactly this, Carlos showed me these mesmerising metallic mermaids he’s been working on recently (destined for the shores of Albufeira and Alvor) and how he has just decided to experiment using a kind of curvy strip metal to make their wavy windswept hair.
Not knowing how on earth he makes these things, I asked him if he heats up the metal to put them into shape? Turns out he doesn’t, he actually just carefully bashes the metal until, well.. life emerges. I told him how much I liked the idea of the ‘plastic fishnets’ on the beaches, and he told me that it’s a message he is very passionate about spreading and that soon he plans to create a statue of a “flying seagull vomiting plastic”. This, I would say, is his very literal way of ‘hammering the point home’.
But he doesn’t just do work for the various councils, he is also available to make you your own private piece. Metal ‘Spidermen’ that I saw clinging to the wall of his workshop were destined for France, and some of his work has even made its way to Holland. But seeing as I found it so tricky to find him, it did make me wonder how other people go about it? I was amused to discover that it works in much the same way.
They too befriend him on Facebook, get sent the card coordinates and go on the same wild goose chase. If you really want to pin him down, it seems like finding and fending off his goose is a rite of passage.
But for most of us, his work is to be enjoyed wherever we find it. Why not take a seat next to one of the holey statues? They make great listeners. A resident of Alvor told me that people have really taken to them and that passersby frequently wish them a “bom dia”, and even sit next to them to have their lunch and a bit of a chat.