Portuguese visual artist Natália Gromicho has used bold color, texture, and emotion for over 20 years, and the world has taken notice.
The native alfacinha (Lisboeta) and Belas Artes graduate Gromicho has exhibited her painting and sculpture work in more than 110 shows throughout Portugal, Australia, the United States, Brazil, Italy, Russia, France, the UK, East Timor, Singapore, Shanghai, India, and Macau.
The veteran painter has been doing her thing since 1995, first receiving international acclaim in 1999 for her Rolling Stone Alternative Logo for which she won a trip to London to meet the Rolling Stones during their “Bridges to Babylon” tour in Wembley. Later, she would go on to beat her agency’s record for the highest amount received for a painting (€18,000) at the Power of Perception II exhibition in New York in 2014. There, her work was called, “intellectually advanced for her time” by a New York critic, which is no small achievement.
In a 2014 interview with Hoje Macau, she said, “My [work] is meant to innovate and shock. Nobody can make a brush stroke like mine: my marks [are made] by embracing imperfection. Man is not perfect and imperfection is art.”
Natália was kind enough to answer some questions for us about life as a self-taught painter in Portugal, what makes her tick, and where she goes to get inspired. Here’s to learning a bit from the artist who tells us that she is constantly learning too.
If you were to describe your style in a few words, what would you say? I communicate with my art. My paintings are an extension of my expression and my way of communicating with people. By extension, my art is the physical representation of my feelings. It is very complicated to explain, but what I feel is expressed in my work.
What attracted you to painting over ceramics for example? My studies started at secondary school with ceramics. Those were my best years of learning. It all started there. The process of glazing (vidrado) is something that amazes me and I think it is partially responsible for my progression from the figurative to the abstract. I love ceramics and I am thinking of returning to it very soon.
You’ve traveled a lot to present your work all over the world. Is there a place among them that reminded you the most of home? Macau was my last presentation, and it felt close to home. Macau has deep Portuguese roots in the air and it is a place that I was really excited to get to know, to feel. During my artist residency there, I was hosted at Casa Garden (the Orient Foundation) and I really felt at home in all aspects. The only difference, besides the place itself, was the language, but overall it felt strangely familiar.
A lot of artists are moving to the UK or elsewhere outside of Portugal but you have chosen to stay. Why? I chose to stay here in Lisbon because it is my home and, ultimately, where I want to be. The sun, the sea, the weather, the people, everything inspires me so there’s no need to go outside Portugal to do my work. I am very lucky in that respect.
What are your thoughts on the art scene here in Lisbon? Over the last two years, we have felt a huge growth in the art scene in Portugal, not just in Lisbon but across the country. Some good artists are getting excellent reviews outside of Portugal, excellent places are now opening, and Portuguese people are now more dedicated to seeing more contemporary art. Also, we are hosting international events that call a lot of visitors to our city, so the scene is gaining more traction than ever before.
How do you feel about the number of new galleries opening up? Is there one in particular you recommend? I think that the scene is progressing with a lot of momentum: there is more diversity and there are loads of cultural events happening around town. Obviously, I would recommend my gallery, located in Chiado, called Atelier Natalia Gromicho. It is a mixed concept gallery with a live atelier. We offer our visitors live painting demonstrations, traditional exhibitions, books for sale, round table discussions, and a lot of other things related to culture and community.
Where do you go to get inspired? In Lisbon, I mainly get my inspiration from the sun and the sea. Trips outside Portugal give me inspiration as well, as I love to experience other cultures.
Is there a restaurant you recommend where you can go to get good ideas and think meaningfully about your projects? I love to visit CCB in Belem to see what is happening there. I usually stop to eat at Este Oeste for some fresh sushi and afterward, I like to take the opportunity to see some art at the museum.
Is there any advice you have for young Portuguese artists? Don’t trust everyone, go with your instincts, and never give up. One day, it will be your day — just keep on trying!
Want to see more of her stuff? Natália is represented by London’s Hay Hill Gallery, Creative Concept in the U.S.A., Artz Space in Singapore, Noeli Gallery for all of Asia, and her own meetiNG art gallery in Portugal.