The two-storey building in Portimão showcases not only a “combination of abstract and figurative” works by Meinke, but also aims to feature “workshops, yoga, live model painting, or serving as a creative retreat space”, with temporary collective exhibitions also expected
– January 22, 2024 | Text Beatriz Maio
A year ago, the Dutch artist opened her new art gallery. Since then, the space has grown into so much more.
Dutch artist Meinke Flesseman, who grew up in the Algarve, is celebrating one year since the opening of her art gallery in Portimão.
The special day was marked on December 15, with the gallery’s first collective exhibition, which she says is a starting point for a new facet to the gallery that she wants to explore.
Those who know Meinke, and her work, know she is a woman of many talents, ranging from ceramics to jewellery, including sculpture and decorative objects made in clay or plaster.
After spending her childhood in the Algarve, where she moved to with her parents at the age of two, Meinke returned to the Netherlands at 14. Three years later, she moved to England, where she stayed for only two years.
From age 19 to 21, she went backpacking across Europe. Her adventurous spirit took her to Italy, where she studied jewellery. However, she felt “a limitation in creativity” in this field and decided to take painting classes.
Upon returning to Portugal, she lived a year in Lisbon but eventually returned to the Algarve. She then decided to move in the 1990s to Moscow. Making jewellery in the Russian capital proved challenging due to a limited access to materials, Meinke explained. She then enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in Moscow to learn more about painting.
However, her experience at the school was affected by the collapse of the Soviet Union. While times were tough, her creativity never waned. In fact, Meinke recalled how hunger was prevalent in the country, but there was a spirit of sharing among the population, both in terms of food and ideas.
After returning to Portugal, Meinke started painting professionally at the age of 28 while residing in Lagoa again. She created sketches, drawings, and paintings but did not see art as a full-time job until she sold her first works to a friend in Moscow.
Later, she held her first exhibition at the Cultural Centre of the São José Convent in Lagoa. As she continued her journey, she met artists living in the eastern part of the Algarve, which led her to move to Olhão, where she stayed for a decade. It was a “spontaneous decision”, she explained, as she felt she needed to be surrounded by more artists.
Meinke eventually moved back closer to her family, with plans to buy a house in Portimão with a unique concept in mind. She sought a space where she could both live and showcase her work, having found it, and completely renovated it.
Setting aside her fear of opening her own gallery, Meinke took a risk, resulting in a “super challenging year” of preparation and growth. At first, Meinke wasn’t entirely sure about how the space could be used. “It wasn’t planned,” she revealed, explaining that ideas eventually started to blossom. Now, she wants the building to also host temporary exhibitions, among other events.
The two-storey building, functioning as an art gallery on the ground floor, has two charming apartments on the first floor, rented individually as holiday rentals (Alojamento Local, or AL). Decorated with her paintings and artworks, both aim to convey a sense of well-being and tranquillity.
One apartment has four bedrooms, with a north-facing terrace and a view of the garden, and the other has six, with two suites located on the spacious south-facing terrace. Both have ample common spaces and fully-equipped kitchens.
Throughout her life so far, Meinke took ceramic classes in the centre and south of the country, learning different techniques. She also took sculpture classes in clay in the Algarve. All of these experiences and this knowledge has led her to the style of works she presents at the gallery now: a “combination of abstract and figurative”.
Her mother is also an artist and “a very creative person in the way she approaches life”, she says. When they moved to Portugal during the Estado Novo regime, there was no freedom of expression through the arts, and creativity was limited. Restrictions, however, led Meinke to learn that “when it’s not possible to buy something, you invent, you improvise”.
The inspiration for her works comes from her experiences in her daily life. “I am a sensitive and spontaneous person, reacting to the environment around me,” she noted.
Meinke’s love for animals, nature and simplicity is evident in her paintings. She grew up on a farm surrounded by animals, but goats fascinate her the most, which is why they appear in various paintings and ceramic pieces. As for her landscape paintings, they were “a reaction to the pandemic”, namely how nature served as an escape for many during the spread of Covid-19.
Despite making great progress in the last year, Meinke says this is just the beginning, with her gallery boasting opportunities for workshops, yoga, live model painting, or serving as a creative retreat space. More temporary collective exhibitions are also expected.
Meinke Flesseman’s gallery is located at number 124 on Rua Infante Dom Henrique – the long street which connects the old bridge between Portimão and Lagoa to the Gil Eanes square.