A Chip Off the Old Block

A Chip Off the Old Block

Inside spoke to the Flessemans, a family of female artists inspired by the Algarve’s unique Light

We all inherit something from our parents, be it our temperament, the colour of our eyes or an aptitude for a certain sport. For the Flesseman girls, it was their mother Bettine’s artistic vein. Both Meinke (a well-established painter) and her sister Pauline (a naturally gifted photographer) inherited Bettine’s sensitivity and artistic flair.

Born in Amsterdam in 1943, Bettine Flesseman’s career was strongly influenced by her grandfather and aunt, who were both well-known painters in Holland. In 1969, she moved to Portugal with her husband and two young girls, where she went on to develop her painting skills and had yearly individual exhibitions in various galleries in Lisbon and throughout the Algarve. While her husband got involved in several real estate projects, such as the Quinta Paraíso in Carvoeiro, Meinke and Pauline enjoyed growing up in their new environment, discovering nature and becoming aware of their surroundings.

We met Pauline on Alvor beach, one of her favourite spots, close to her home. The old fishing village, with its long stretch of beach and lagoon, is a great source of inspiration for the self-taught photographer. “I still find myself absorbed by the Algarve’s special luminosity, which is hard to find anywhere else,” remarks Pauline, looking around us as the sun sets in the distance over Lagos. “I come from a family of successful artists, my mother Bettine and my sister Meinke are both painters, which I acknowledge is both a factor for some insecurity and, at the same time, my inspiration for developing my creativity,” she admits.

The eldest of the two, Meinke started painting at the age of 17 and spread her wings by travelling to Moscow, where she studied fine art at the Lorenzo di Medici academy, and then at the Ruud Wackers academy in Amsterdam, where she flourished as an artist.

Just like her sister Pauline, she is greatly influenced by her natural surroundings and her relationship with the land. Describing her style as “figurative with an eclectic edge”, she explains: “My inspiration comes from my direct environment. Often a subconscious response to what is going on for me. I’m currently working on portraits incorporating other elements, fish and dogs seem to be showing up lately.”

Constantly developing her art, Meinke explores new avenues: “In the last couple of years I’ve experimented a lot with different themes and media. I’ve done a large carpet painting project for a hotel in Spain and I’m exploring tile painting for a design hotel in Holland.”

As for Pauline, although she has been involved in all sorts of different projects throughout her life, she is no exception when it comes to the women in the family, having chosen to reveal her artistic gift through photography. Whether with bold colours or in black and white, her captivating images reflect everyday life in the Algarve, but also in distant lands she has travelled in.

She has many skills up her sleeve, she’s a certified yoga teacher and also helps her mother-in-law with her small hotel, Casa Três Palmeiras, in Praia do Vau. It’s no secret, Pauline loves creating and involving herself in new projects. “I just want to do it all,” she says laughing. Her latest project is a gourmet shop in Carvoeiro created in partnership with Terroir shop & kitchen in Carvoeiro and Club Nau in Ferragudo, – Earth Shop & Café – where you can either taste or buy unique Portuguese products, from wine to olive oil and cheese to crockery.

However, her true passion is photography. It was Richard Schlingensiepen, her long-term partner, who encouraged her to pursue what was just a hobby. “We both enjoyed photography, but it didn’t make sense for both of us to be constantly taking pictures. One day he just stopped and let me carry on,” she said. And she hasn’t stopped since: “Still today I can lose track of time, shooting away at some detail in the sand.” It’s a sort of meditation for her.

Pauline and Richard love to travel to different parts of the world, and regularly go to Thailand where they had previously run a dive shop and a beach bar with friends. The colourful landscapes, indigenous species and joyful inhabitants are also featured in Pauline’s vibrant shots, which transmit strong emotions and a multitude of textures.

Thanks to Meinke’s 18-year-old daughter Sancha, the family’s long line of artistic females will endure. Having also inherited the artistic vein, and obviously influenced by the women in her family, she is currently developing her sculpting skills.

Discover Meinke’s work at her studio in Olhão (by appointment only), at Alquatro and Gosto in Almancil, as well as the Côrte-Real Gallery in Paderne. Pauline’s work is on show at Restinga Ria in Alvor and at the Earth Shop & Café in Carvoeiro.




Text Alexandra Stilwell


Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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