For most of us, scrap metal is usually something ugly to be discarded. But for one person, it has a different significance. With a particular vision, it is transformed into beautiful pieces of art.
WORDS Lena Strang
This is what 41-year-old Brazilian-born Rogério Gonçalves Almeida has been doing for the last three years at the Ferrel Veterinary Clinic in Espiche. No, he doesn’t treat sick animals. Instead, he creates unique sculptures of them made from iron, some lurking in the vegetation outside the building, others on display in the reception area. His day job is maintenance and gardening, but his spare time is dedicated to his passion for creating artwork.
Rogério is happy to show me around and explain how he does his craft. Having worked, amongst other things, as a security guard in Brazil, it was as a welder that he gained the necessary skills. “I started experimenting with making sculptures of iron. When I moved to Portugal, I began doing this in earnest,” he says. He takes me to his extensive workshop area behind the clinic. As we walk along the path, I almost hear the white duck, made entirely from spoons, quacking at us with his yellow beak wide open. Double-take. The green chameleon perched on a tree stump also looks ready to bounce.
What strikes me about the numerous creatures Rogério has created is that they are unique and many also display special characteristics. For example, how can a cat made from a stone as a body and moulded iron look so startled? The simple flower rack on the wall with only a few bent pieces of iron portrays the outline of a sweet little puppy. I haven’t quite decided which is my favourite, but a simple statue of a hummingbird feeding on a flower made from shiny steel, catches my eye.
I want to know how he makes these sculptures and where he sources his material. “My head is always full of ideas!” he laughs. “After I have thought it through, I draw the design, and then the piece of work emerges with the material I have at hand. Even when I think it’s finished, I may add extra details. It’s the challenge of the work that appeals to me.”
Rogério has no problems sourcing material. He goes to different workshops in the area to pick up pieces, and a local mechanic gives him a regular call. “The more that is recycled, the less waste there is,” he muses. I see pieces made of nuts and bolts, bicycle chains, knife handles, parts of spades, taps, stones etc. The sculpture he is currently working on is a large dog that the clinic has ordered. “There is an iron structure, but the rest is made entirely with nuts and bolts, so it’s taking a while to finish,” he explains.
As his focus is animals, doesn’t he need to have specific knowledge of anatomy to do his work? “If I’m not too sure, I research to get details right,” he confirms, pointing to one of the sculptures on his workbench, “One side of the goose over there shows the bird’s skeleton, and I had to make sure all the bones were right. I found it fascinating.”
When I ask him about his future, he smiles broadly. “I love my work and have plenty more ideas! I share a house in the beautiful countryside with my dog. Just look at the tranquil scenery all around. What more can you ask for?”
Indeed. What Rogério is doing is inspiring. His love of nature is evident, and he manifests this with a twist. Out of pieces of scrap metal, he can create astonishing creatures from the animal world. He utilises things we often consider to be mere junk littering our environment, transforming them into something of intrinsic value.
Rogério has done several commissions, including three sculptures for Lagos Zoo and orders from abroad and private individuals. His sculptures are posted on Instagram, and he is happy to be contacted by anyone wanting to know more.