Bartolomeu Cid dos Santos was a Professor of Fine Art. He was proud to be Portuguese, but spent much of his career in the UK, teaching and working at the Slade College of Fine Art, at University College, London. On his birthday 24th August, together with his wife Fernanda, he would often entertain artists and prospective artists at their home in Sintra. The triangle of travel from 1995 to 2008 when he died, was London, Sintra, and Tavira. It is in Tavira that he created a studio, with echoes of the Slade workshop space, similar lighting, equipment and of course copper plates for printing. His widow, Fernanda, recalled the places around the studio that he frequented, such as Simon’s restaurant and the bar “Tasca de Andre”. It’s in this bar, that has two TV screens, where Bartolomeu would watch two separate football games with his friends and at the same time speak to Fernanda in England by phone as she worked as an intepreter.
It is some of these friends, along with some experts, such as the architect Barbara Delgado Martins, who have come together to restore the Tavira studio.
They formed the association Oficina Bartolomeu dos Santos with the aim of providing opportunity and space for artists especially print artists to come together. The intention is also to be able to host an artist in residence. Last year in November, I interviewed one of Bartolomeu’s students, Miguel Mastinho, who studied etching and engraving techniques and now continues to work using copper plates for etching. A constant innovator, Bartolomeu dos Santos’s etchings often combine both stones and plates. He illustrated a number of fine books with his etchings, including several by Jose Saramago. Miguel calls this “acid and alchemy” and says “copper is a noble material”
Today, at the press conference launch of the inauguration of the workshop space/studio, Fernanda shared stories with Bill Penny, one of Bartolomeu’s Slade students, who had worked in the Tavira and the Slade studios. Some of their work became part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Portuguese Republic. This commission was the placing of hundreds of blue and white glazed tiles as a monument in Grandola. Some photos of this monument to freedom can be seen on flickr. The words “dá mais força à liberdade”, feature in the centre of the monument and it is those words that Bill Penny was reminded of by Fernanda, in the birthday lunch guest book from Sintra. Bill remembers his student days working with Bartolomeu and said “Bartolomeu was an internationalist. His workshops were always full of students from all over the world”. Bill is now lecturing at the Belfast school of Arts where he is a Professor of Printmaking. Today’s inauguration was also attended by the original curator, Manuel Agusto Araujo, of the exhibition of Bartolomeu Cid dos Santos at Casa das Artes in Tavira. The main organiser behind this initiative is Jose Delgado Martins, who as part of the Association has negotiated the terms in which the studio was restored.
The art work itself was donated to the City of Tavira and this still needs a permanent and sensitive home.
As you wander around the studio you see remnants of Bartolomeu and Fernanda’s relationship. On the kiln there is a simple sign “Stop Bush”. Fernanda explained that she marched for peace in November 2003 and as she marched she talked to Bartolomeu, saying “we have just passed the British Museum etc, etc”. She said “I took lots of photos of people with poodles on their T-shirts, with the words I am not a Bush poodle”. “That Xmas I came to the studio and put that sign on the kiln”.
Bartolomeu died on 21st May 2008, aged 76. The Guardian newspaper and other artists wrote biographical tributes at the time. This tribute in the form of a restored studio has the potential to help develop the work of print makers and the artists who use the plastic arts, in the small town of Tavira- that he loved. There is an official opening tonight 24th August at 10pm at the Studio where there will be a reading of excerpts of Bartolomeu’s journals by the actor Pedro Ramos, director of theatre company Al-Masrah, illustrated with images from the artist’s life, compiled by Manuel Augusto Araújo.
More information about the Association which supports the studio can
be found on their