The lion of the earth – Exhibition at Côrte-Real Gallery

The exhibition features mixed-media collage paintings by Dutch artist and Algarve resident, Meinke Flesseman. Look out for her chameleon!

Due to its proficient hunting skills, the chameleon was known in ancient times as the ‘ground lion’. In the Algarve, where chameleons hibernate through winter, these dinosaur-like creatures are emerging into the spring sunshine.

Frequently seen in the gardens of Côrte-Real, the gallery is located in the countryside near Paderne.

The chameleon’s hunting skills rely entirely on 360º vision and a tongue that extends out of its mouth faster than the human eye can see. A sticky tip on the end, made from a bulbous ball of muscles, hits the prey – probably a spider or cicada – forming an inescapable suction cup. Within 30 thousandths of a second it is drawn back into the mouth where it is crushed by strong but toothless jaws.

Closely related to the many lizards that also populate the gallery’s garden, chameleons are much more formidable hunters. Pictured by Meinke in its classic state of green there is a myth that states chameleons change colour as a means of camouflage. This is not true. Colour changes indicate the animal’s mood. A black chameleon is showing fear and a red or yellow chameleon is ready to mate. Research indicates colour variations might also be a sophisticated means of communication used in tandem with a system of vibrations.

Creating a curiously hypnotic motion, chameleons sway back and forth like leaves undulating in a breeze – a movement that can successfully deceive a bird of prey. This method of propulsion is due to the strange arrangement of its toes. Three are fused on the inside and two on the outside of its front feet. The pattern is reversed on its hind feet enabling it to grip the branches of a tree.

Chameleons can be seen in many places in the Algarve although the highest concentration is on a nature reserve between Vila Real de Santo António and Monte Gordo. The 5 kilometer chameleon trail in the ‘Mata Nacional das Dunas’ is located in the forest of the coastal dunes. The species is closely protected and vulnerable. Mediterranean chameleons rarely survive in captivity. If you are fortunate enough to see one do not be tempted to touch or interfere with its behaviour. As a preferred option – gaze at Meinke’s picture, marvel at the chameleon’s skills and its very odd appearance.

Visit Côrte- Real’s new Gallery located above the estate agents Fine and Country (Rua do Barranco), close to the beach in the centre of Carvoeiro.

The main gallery, Galeria Côrte-Real, is signposted from Boliqueime, Ferreiras and Paderne.

Open Thursday to Sunday, from 11am to 5pm.
912 737 762 |

By Carolyn Kain

Photo: Mixed-media collage painting on display at Galeria Côrte-Real