Artist Justin Durães-West
Artist Justin Durães-West

An expat contemporary artist and painter living in Portugal

It is every artist’s dream to relocate to a country, climate and culture that contribute to artistic inspiration.

Portugal has it all, with a 943km mainland coastline plus another 917km island coast of dramatic seascapes and clifftops, 150 castles, volcanoes and numerous picturesque rural towns and villages. I dare anybody to drive down the A2 from Lisbon to the Algarve and not be marvelled by the cork forests of the Alentejo.

Art is everywhere in Portugal, from beautiful ceramics to countryside ruins and train stations covered by anonymous “street artists”.

I recommend walking around the Algarvian town of Lagos and discover the street art in collaboration with LAC, the Laboratory for Creative Activities, a non-profit cultural association founded in 1995, based at the old Lagos prison.

art gallery
Photo: DURÃES-WEST/MAU

Designed by Cottinelli Telmo, this building has its foundations laid on an old convent, making it an integral part of the local history. The building has found a new lease of life with its cells being used as workshop areas for artists. LAC Association organises artistic residences and, in 2012, LAC opened LAR Gallery, which offers a space for different artistic forms and people to come together.

Serene modern interpretations of traditional ceramics, or “modern classic tiles”, can be seen in the artwork of João da Costa or the handmade contemporary ceramic pottery by Marta Botelho at The Clay Label. The artistic culture is vibrant.

My personal inspiration comes from horizons and the expansive views of ocean and sky. I often go to the beach before first light to watch the sunrise whilst surfing as light re-enters our world and cracks the darkness.

I hope art lovers can recognise the theme of “Contrast” in my work, “the state of being surprisingly different from something else in juxtaposition or close association. As in life; light, darkness, form, feeling, day, night, sea, sky; the contrast allows us to measure experience.”

art gallery
Photo: DURÃES-WEST/MAU

As an emerging expat artist, introducing yourself into a local established art scene can be difficult, but straightway I had the support of MAU | Urban Art Museum at Taguspark, a science and technology park located in Oeiras, the hills overlooking Cascais.

The CEO of Taguspark, Professor Eduardo Correia, and MAU curator, Beatriz Palma, were incredibly supportive, offering an architecturally impressive exhibition space for a solo show of 17 of my large-scale acrylic and acrylic spray paintings on canvas.

MAU presents arts and culture at Taguspark to promote critical thinking and aims to contribute to the well-being of those who visit and work in the science and technology park. I am already looking forward and planning a specific series of paintings for the space and exhibition in 2024.

Worldwide, there has been an explosion of mega private galleries turning over millions of dollars in artwork sales, a reflection of the art investment market being recession-proof and outperforming the stock market.

Lisbon has the majority of galleries with a stable of supported artists and events such as LAW, Lisbon Art Weekend, but the galleries still feel connected and not overtly commercial or aloof. You can find out about all the contemporary art shows and events happening in Portugal by downloading a very useful app called ‘Contemporânea, Portugal Contemporary Art Guide’.

As an emerging expat artist looking to exhibit their work, I recommend looking also to regional towns and cities outside of Lisbon. I am currently talking with a beautiful space in Évora, Plato gallery, a project created by Diogo Ramalho, started from, in his opinion, “the increasingly urgent need to decentralise contemporary art exhibitions”.

art gallery
Photo: DURÃES-WEST/MAU

Previously a printers and later a fish market, Plato gallery proposes a diversified curatorial programme with exhibitions, performances, and criticism, focusing on contemporary art and culture. Plato intends to act locally and globally, bringing together national and international artists and curators, both established and emerging.

At Durães-West Art, we are being pro-active in finding ways to exhibit my artwork. We are looking to partner with commercial real estate and property developers in our “ART SPACE – Art in temporarily empty spaces project”. We believe this is a unique and mutually beneficial concept that will create interesting networking opportunities.

Love it or hate it, art is always a talking point and a great way to break the ice between people. We would like to create temporary art exhibitions and hold opening evening events in temporarily empty commercial spaces. An opportunity to make new connections, showcase the potential of the space, foster relationships with existing clients in a conducive environment whilst gaining exposure through publicity of each event.

By Justin Durães-West

If you are a gallery, represent a commercial space or just interested in investing or commissioning artwork by Durães-West, you can find more information and contact details by visiting www.duraeswest.com