Sculptor, painter and medal maker
Maria Irene Lima de Matos Vilar was born in Matosinhos on 11 December 1930. She lived in Foz do Douro, in Porto, since she was 19, where she had two workshops, both in Padre Luís Cabral Street, near her home.
She completed her high school education in Porto, at the end of which she enrolled in the Porto School of Fine Arts against her family’s wishes. She wanted to study Architecture, but after contacts with teachers Barata Feyo and Dórdio Gomes she chose sculpture, at a time when the school was run by architect Carlos Ramos.
She enrolled in Sculpture on 22 September 1948 and completed the degree on 2 June 1955. Unsurprisingly, her end of the year project entitled "Lying statue" earned her full marks.
In 1958, she studied in Italy and travelled across Spain, France and Switzerland on a scholarship from the Institute for Advanced Culture and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.
She trained at Gomes Teixeira School and Clara de Resende High School, in Porto, teaching Drawing, Visual Education and History of Costume. She was also the director of the former Aurélia de Sousa Industrial School (now a secondary school), also in Porto. She took a break after the 25 April 1974 and then ended her teaching career in 1987 at Clara de Resende High School. From this time on, she became wholly dedicated to Art.
She was the author of many valuable and award-winning sculptures, medals, coins, jewellery and paintings, shown at many solo and group exhibitions. In 1976, she generously offered part of her art collection to the City Council of Matosinhos.
Her sculptures can be admired in many countries, for e.g., Portugal, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, Belgium, Holland and Macau. They can be divided into two major types, public works – commissioned work –, and personal work, showing greater freedom of expression, close to the figurative Expressionism. The monumental pieces follow the Portuguese 19th century statue tradition, focused on the central figures of Portuguese culture and history, favouring the use of bronze and a modern expressionist language. The balance between light and darkness intensifies the emotion shown in her work.
With regard to religious sculptures, she saw the artist as the conveyor of community experiences, with a strong "sense of mission" and freedom-oriented. Initially, she used wood, then clay and plaster, and at a later stage she used castings.
Her medals also show monumental features not very common in this type of art, as she managed to include irregular forms within the limits of the medals, playing with the figures represented on both surfaces.
In her wooden sculptures, for example, "The Siege” and “The Feudal Castle”, from the 60s, she took great pleasure in showing the roughness of the material by means of chisels and gouges, and in giving them a strong drama imprint, which is clearly visible in other works, for instance in "This Tree is 2000 years old".
She died on 12 May 2008 at the age of 77, in S. João Hospital, Porto, after a long illness.
The funeral service was held in a chapel very dear to the artist, the Barefoot Carmelites Chapel, in which she had worked, located in Gondarém Street in Foz.
Besides being a distinguished artist, she was a very simple, kind and communicative person.
(Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2008)