Over the summer I’ve been building up quite a collection of extraordinary local artists that I keep finding at their stalls at the Mercadinho in Loulé (that's on every Saturday from 10 am till 2 pm until the end of October). This time I found a truly marvellous marble artist.
Or, maybe it would be more fair to say that one of my friends did.
Visiting from Lisbon I needed to take them to catch their train, but spotting this intriguing sculptress’s stall she just had to stop and buy a beautiful soap dish. We then had to rush off but in the back of my mind ever since I knew that it was a shame that I didn’t get to find out more.
That's why, a few weeks later, when I saw she was once again at the Mercadinho I was determined, a bit like the soap dish with its carved out ‘grippy lines’ that my friend bought, not to let her slip away again. Who was she? And how did she make such enchanting things out of such a solid raw material?
Turns out she’s called Rita. Artistically known as RoMP, which is short for Rita os Meus Pes, which in English translates to ‘Rita My Feet’. But why is she called that? Well, one of her first sculptures was of a pair of feet and her friends teased her about how she was always saying she needed to “go and work on my feet”. This nickname stuck and the acronym RoMP seemed appropriate too, as in Portuguese ‘romper’ means to separate or break things up. And this is what Rita, armed with all sorts of serious and frankly pretty dangerous-looking machines, is always doing with her marble.
Having found her again, this time I had more time to really marvel at her marble and the first thing I noticed was her epic collection of waves carved out and captured forever mid-curl. Waves as it turns out are one of the most popular in her repertoire and like all the swells that are eternally crashing onto the sea shore, each one of her beautiful stone waves are completely unique. Underneath she had a forest of cute little marble trees (although she’s also made some pretty BIG trees, more on that later..). There were also imaginative moons and quirky faces as well as plates of various different sizes and shapes.
Practically it made sense for everything at the stall to be fairly small so that people can carry them away with them. However, just to give a little glimpse of what Rita is able to do with bigger pieces, there was also on display a beautiful life-like female marble chest that Rita was set to deliver to a lady in Silves later on that day.
I was still incredibly curious to know more about how she makes these things and delighted when she invited me to come and visit her workshop in her hometown of Lagos. She mentioned she makes quite a bit of a mess, and indeed, the next time I saw lady RoMP she was completely covered from head to toe in white dust.
Her workshop turned out to be in the Laboratório de Actividades Criativas (LAC). This creative activities lab is located high on a hill in the backstreets of Lagos (if in doubt, it's the building with a silver polar bear on the roof). The place used to be a prison, but nowadays the cells are the perfect space for artists to create interesting and beautiful things. As a reminder of the places past and perhaps (I hazard a guess) to remind the resident artists that true beauty is in imperfection, on the wall outside they have written ‘Respect the Flaw’.
Rita was born and raised here in Lagos, but she went off to study Equipment Design at the Faculdade de Belas-Artes at the Universidade de Lisboa and completed her masters in Product Design at the Escola Superior de Artes e Design in Caldas da Rainha.
In 2017, she moved back to Lagos and has been a resident artist at the LAC ever since. It's perfect for her, as not only is this a great place to meet and interact with other artists, but just the nature of her art requires her to make a lot of noise and dust and let's face it, there are not too many places where she could RoMP and stomp about to her heart's content. (Oh yes, that’s right. She’s also been known to carve out intricate human hearts from her marble. Forgot to mention that...).
You can find two of Rita’s larger sculptures on public display in the Algarve. There’s one that’s in Praia da Luz which is a homage to her friend Matthias Sandeck, a local friend who sadly died in an underwater fishing competition in Denmark. The other is the bigger tree I alluded to earlier and can be found at the Art & Spa at the Caldas de Monchique.
The rather cool idea here was to plant this marble cypress tree and leave it exposed to the elements to get covered in moss, becoming one with its habitat and thus becoming even more beautiful over time.
These aren’t the only places her larger sculptures have been on show though. She’s been leaving her marblelous marks in other countries too.
In 2018, she participated in the International Sculpture Symposium in Italy and again in 2019 in France. The theme that year was 'Mediterranean Flora' and so she decided it would be perfect to plant another of her habitat inhabiting cypress trees (but this time based on a French species).
If you would like to find out more about Rita, then follow her Instagram and Facebook. You can find her work in various shops such as the Salty Waves in Praia da Luz, Kailuz in Burgau as well as in the Casa Mãe, Jah Shaka and Quicksilver in Lagos and it can also be seen in Galleria LIR in Lagoa. And, if you read this in time, she’s even back for her final RoMP at the Loulé Mercadinho on Saturday the 23rd of October.