ON TOP OF THE ARTS
In this month’s issue we are scheduled to meet German born sculptor Georg Scheele in his home just outside of Monchique. On our way up into the mountains we notice the abundance of wildlife by the side of the winding country road where virtually every telephone post, tree or rooftop seems to be home to a variety of storks. As the vegetation turns from dusty grey into lush shades of green that all but disappear off nature’s palette by the coast, we can’t help but marvel at the variety of alternating landscapes and microcosmic flora that make up the Algarvian countryside.
On reaching the hilltop village of Monchique we’re greeted by Georg on his pedal bike who shows us the way to his spacious converted barn-studio on the way out to Alferce. On first entering an unsuspecting visitor is intrigued by the abundance and varying colours of the outstanding sculptures that are mounted on stands inside his studio. Ranging from pink hues to cristalline white we see the finest marbles that Portugal has on offer.
Georg freely recounts his past professional career and gives us a glimpse into his working life, the techniques and tools he uses to create his amazing, gravity defying, intriguingly interwoven stone-turned dreams. Just how he achieves such stunning results and mastery of the stone remains a mystery we are intrigued to tease out of him.
Rosenstern: Georg, for how long have you been working with stone?
Georg: Already at school I knew I wanted to become a sculptor, and on first starting out in my profession I began apprenticeship as ‘stuccator’, but soon realised that this wasn’t the right choice for me and fully turned my attention to stone. I did my apprenticeship as a stonemason and graduated with a sculpture and I immediately became a self-employed sculptor, initially in Carrara, home to the finest marbles in the world..
Rosenstern: Was marble your preferred choice of material from the beginning?
Georg: Not really, at first I learned to work with all the other commonly used stones in Germany and only really discovered the advantages of this sublime material here in Portugal.
Rosenstern: How long have you been living and working in Portugal?
Georg: I lived in Monchique for eighteen years, when my wife and I got divorced and I felt it was time for a new direction in my life; a change of place and even my style as artist. I went to Pero Pinheiro near Sintra, which twelve years ago was the home to the ‘International Sculpture Academy’, where I worked alongside other artists before going back to Germany. I’m still in contact with the Academy and its members and have exhibitions there and in the North of Portugal.
Rosenstern: How do you make your living? Do you sell your works in Galleries or do you execute commissions for people? And would you sculpt somebody’s pet in stone for example?
Georg (laughing): No, I don’t do cats and dogs! But stick to my unique style which is my trade mark and is what people recognize, appreciate and what makes me successful, really.
I also work together with galleries that represent and sell my works, in London, Frankfurt and Portugal, making my year a busy one. Right now I have twelve sculptures to finish in time for the next exhibition in Porto, working on them simultaneously.
Rosenstern: I remember you also ventured into other materials when you changed your style. Some years ago you had an exhibition in the ‘Centro Cultural Almancil’ the most prestigeous gallery in the Algarve then, where you showed incredibly complicated and breathtakingly beautiful sculptures in bronze. How did you achieve that?
Georg: When I went back to Germany I started working in Bronze, trying to convey my ideas from stone into metal. The task was beyond my powers and caused me to lose one eye! When I polished the crude bronze a disc shattered and flew into it, leaving me half blind. Still, I achieved something with those dozen casts that had not been done before, because I didn’t have a clue about technique and stumbled into it quite naively, which enabled me to stretch the material to its limits. People loved it!
Rosenstern: Who or what has influenced you most in your work?
Georg: At first when I still worked figuratively it was Rodin, then soon changed to modern conceptual artists like the Russians ‘Naum Gabo’ and ‘Antoine Pevsner’. (Google)
Rosenstern: What do you feel particularly proud of; which achievement or creation?
Georg: I’m proud to be where I am. When I lost my eye I thought this would be the end of my career, but now I feel I have achieved so much in recent years that it gives me great confidence for the future. For me working in stone is an expression of the essence that makes up my personality.
Rosenstern: What would you still like to achieve in years to come?
Georg: I want to get better still, learn all there is to working in marble and transform it into beauty.
We think that is something that he’s already obtained from his craft and leave Georg to his work, not without one last look around and the promise to drop by again to see how this talented sculptor will develop in years to come.