Rita Pereira is a resident artist of the Creative Arts Lab (LAC) in Lagos Photo: Phaze Photography

Sculpting a legacy

When Rita Pereira, artistically known as RomP, explains why she chose sculpture, the words that come to mind are, “every cloud has a silver lining”.

“I didn’t have the grades to enrol in a Design course, that’s why I had to study one year of Sculpture, in 2009, before getting into Equipment Design,” she recalls.

Rita knows, now, that year was crucial for understanding the direction. RomP, the initials for ‘Rita os Meus Pés’ (Rita, my feet), comes from her first stone creation, a pair of feet, that she was constantly referring to: “I have to work on my feet; I have to polish my feet better.” And it stuck.

One of the resident artists of the Creative Arts Lab (LAC), Rita admits that being able to work in a space like LAC is crucial. “I need somewhere where I can make a lot of noise and dust, and having the inspiration of other artists around me, especially from Raymond Dumas, a local sculptor that inspired me from the very beginning, means a lot to me.

Rita’s first contact with stonework was in the first year of university, but growing up surrounded by other sculptors was a great incentive too. “It was natural for me to grab the stone, explore it and fall in love with it, as I was close to the works of Vera Faria and Raymond Dumas from an early age,” Rita recalls.

“I used to be reluctant to assume sculpture as my art, until I finished my masters in Product Design and got an invitation to assist in the International Symposium of Stone Sculpture (SIMPPETRA).” The contact with real sculptors was an important turning point, a very emotional moment where she says she realised that she wanted to be part of that world.

Now, she is creating her legacy. From functional pieces to public sculptures of large dimensions and décor pieces, including for the shop windows of Hermès in Lisbon, Rita is also leaving her mark abroad. In 2018, she participated in the 5th International Sculpture Symposium in Vitulano, Italy, with the sculpture Apparition and, in 2019, she left the Eternal tree in France, for the 3rd International Symposium of Sculptures.

The tree was firstly conceived for the Monchique project Places of Globalisation and then the idea was taken for a Symposium in France, under the theme ‘Mediterranean Flora and Fauna’.

“It all started in a design project where I observed the stone pieces getting all mossy and wondered why an artist wouldn’t conceive a piece thinking of its future. They don’t remain shiny, polished and beautiful forever.” With that thought, Rita created a tree that could suffer an ‘eternal’ transformation, prone to absorb all the lichens and mosses.

With her hands showing some of the glue that remained from the day working in LAC, Rita describes that which is one of the most important pieces for her. “Equilibrium is an especially important piece for me, in part because of the phase I was going through at the moment of its creation,” she explains. “I finished my studies and got into the market, but also felt the need to know more about myself through solo travelling.”

The sculpture is made of three pieces: one hand grabbing a triangle, representing an illusion of equilibrium, a foot pushing a triangle away – the quest for disequilibrium – and a circle in a triangle, the dichotomy of equilibrium and disequilibrium.

Rita’s ambition for the near future is to work more on large-scale public sculptures. “I think every single person should have access to art,” she states. The latest example of this is the work done in homage to Matthias Sandeck, a local friend who died in a professional diving competition in Denmark. “There was the need to keep his spirit alive between us and we decided to leave the statue just in front of the ocean, in Praia da Luz.” 

Rita’s inspiration comes mostly from nature. “The waves in stone are currently my bestsellers, and I’ve started this whole thing because of how connected I was to the sea,” she reveals. “It’s interesting that what I create is a representation of what I am living in a certain moment of my life.”

When asked about what separates Rita from RomP, she quoted Frida Khalo: “I am my own muse. I am the subject I know the best. The subject I want to know better.” There is no gap between Rita and RomP, as what she creates is almost a pure reflection of what’s going on inside of her.

Rita Pereira’s work is currently available for sale in Artes and Spa (Monchique), Salty Wave surf shop (Praia da Luz), LiR gallery (Lagoa) and at the local artists’ exhibition in the Lagos warehouse.

Margarida Pimenta

Rita Pereira is a resident artist of the Creative Arts Lab (LAC) in Lagos
Photo: Phaze Photography
Photo: Phaze Photography