Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal
Material: Paper and Aluminum Pastel
Collection: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Modern Collection
ABOUT THE WORK
Em Mãe (Mother) Paula Rego retrata o protagonista de O Crime do Padre Amaro (1875), de Eça de Queirós, vestindo uma saia de xadrez, memória «das saias das mulheres de pescadores da Ericeira», onde a família da artista tinha uma quinta.
No romance, o padre Amaro Vieira, orfão aos seis anos, foi adotado pela patroa de sua mãe, a Marquesa de Alegros. Enquanto as filhas da piedosa marquesa ocupavam o tempo com modas e caridade, o passivo Amaro, destinado a tornar-se padre por vontade da sua mãe adotiva, entretinha-se com as criadas que o vestiam de menina, o envolviam em intrigas e lhe ensinavam histórias de santas.
Usando o polémico romance queirosiano – obra admirada pelo pai da artista numa época em que não era bem aceite – como «detonador de imagens», a pintora recria a mesma atmosfera de perversão e candura descrita pelo escritor, que já levara Antero de Quental a concluir: «Aquilo, no fundo, é uma pobre gente, uma boa gente, vítimas da confusão moral do meio de que nasceram, fazendo o mal inocentemente, em parte porque não entendem mais nem melhor, em parte porque os arrasta a paixão, o instinto, como pobres seres espontâneos, sem a menor transcendência.»
Patente na Dulwich Picture Gallery, em Londres, 1998, a série O Crime do Padre Amaro foi apresentada em conjunto com algumas obras do pintor espanhol Bartolomé Estéban Murillo (1618-1682), entre elas, «uma radiosa Madonna of the Rosary» e três quadros com crianças mendicantes, muito admirados por Paula Rego. Se para o mestre seiscentista «a beleza e a juventude» estavam sempre «ameaçadas pela decadência e pela morte», como afirma Desmond Shawe-Taylor, então director da Dulwich Picture Gallery, nas obras da artista portuguesa a violência pode ser exercida pelo mais dócil cordeiro.
Em 1999, o Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azeredo Perdigão apresentou O Crime do Padre Amaro em conjunto com Untitled, série subordinada ao tema do aborto. Um jovem visitante criticou Paula Rego por não ter dado às mulheres que tinham feito aborto um rosto monstruoso. Com a habitual benevolência, a pintora respondeu: «É que no dia seguinte elas têm de continuar a ir ao café».
Desmontar jogos de poder, denunciar o autoritarismo político, a hipocrisia, expor o sofrimento no amor e a sexualidade encapotada, exaltar o poder feminino, não menos violento, perante todas as agressões, são alguns dos princípios subjacentes a uma obra, que desde a primeira exposição em Lisboa (SNBA, 1965/66), até hoje, continua a suscitar tanto a admiração quanto o embaraço.
Considerada durante décadas como “artista marginal”, porque indiferente às artes conceptual e performativa dominantes na Inglaterra, obtém o reconhecimento do establisment artístico britânico quando, em 1990, aceita ser a primeira “artista associada” da National Gallery, em Londres.
Se tivesse ficado em Portugal possivelmente teria sido «uma bêbada profissional» afirmou numa entrevista a Marco Livingstone, comissário da retrospectiva realizada no Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2007. A ida para Inglaterra foi decisiva, de outra forma nunca poderia ter faltado às aulas da Slade School of Art para ir ao cinema ou conhecido Victor Willing (1928-1988), intelectual, pintor, marido cúmplice da sua obra, cuja morte lenta inspirou novas metáforas, trevas e sombra que apreciava comentar.
Em criança, na companhia do pai, Paula Rego sentia um prazer especial em ver as gravuras de Gustave Doré, publicadas no livro “O Inferno”, de Dante. Sem o menosprezo «snob das belas artes» relativo à ilustração, a sua pintura privilegia contar uma história, o suspense, ultrapassando a obra na qual se inspira, seja ela proveniente da literatura oral ou escrita, pictórica, musical ou cinematográfica.
Conseguir passar «da cabeça para a mão» a corrente torrencial de imagens, sem censura, é um objectivo constante, muito embora, desde a série a pastel “A mulher-cão” (1994) utilize com frequência modelos, sobretudo Lila Nunes, antiga enfermeira de Victor Willing.
O prazer físico de cortar e colar desenhos, modus operandi de finais dos anos 50 até ao início da década de 80 – gerando quadros abstractos e viscerais, numa clara inspiração em Jean Dubuffet, defensor da Arte Bruta – foi assimilado à pintura a pastel das últimas décadas.
Criadora de fábulas, Paula Rego desenvolve um trabalho prévio de metteur en scène. Em Londres, o atelier é um palco secreto, no qual contracenam «fantasmas», alguns deles nascidos de esculturas que a pintora constrói. Longe de Portugal, a pátria que os inspira, submetem-se. Aqui «eles não virão mordê-la no rabo», lembra Nicholas Willing, o filho cineasta. Como a pintura é uma forma de «magia poderosa», esses fantasmas correm somente para dentro de quem os teme.
Maio de 2010
FROM WIKIPEDIA, THE FREE ENCYCLOPEDIA
Born26 January 1935 (age 80)
Known for painting, printmaking
Dame of the British Empire
Grã-Cruz da Ordem Militar de Sant’Iago da Espada
Dame Paula Rego, DBE (born 26 January 1935), is a Portuguese visual artist who is particularly well known for her paintings and prints based on storybooks. Rego’s style has evolved from abstract towards representational, and she has favoured pastels over oils for much of her career. Her work often reflects feminism, coloured by folk-themes from her native Portugal. Rego studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and was an exhibiting member of the London Group with David Hockney and Frank Auerbach. She was the first artist-in-residence at the National Gallery in London. She lives and works in London.
Rego was born on 26 January 1935 in Lisbon, Portugal. Her father was an electrical engineer who worked for the Marconi Company. Although this gave her a comfortable middle-class home, the family was divided in 1936 when her father was posted to work in the United Kingdom. Accompanied by Rego’s mother, they left Rego behind in Portugal in the care of her grandmother until 1939. Her grandmother was to become a significant figure in Rego’s life as she learnt many of the traditional folktales that would one day make their way into her artwork from her grandmother and the family maid.
Rego’s family were keen Anglophiles, and Rego was sent to the only English language school in Portugal at the time, Saint Julian’s School in Carcavelos from 1945 to 1951. Although nominally a Catholic and living in a devoutly Catholic country, St Julian’s School was Anglican and this combined with the hostility of Rego’s father for the Catholic Church to create a distance between her and full-blooded Catholic belief. Rego has described herself as having become a "sort of Catholic," but equally she possessed as a child a sense of Catholic guilt and a very real belief that the Devil is real.
In 1951, Rego was sent to the United Kingdom to attend a finishing school called The Grove School, in Sevenoaks, Kent. Unhappy here, Rego attempted in 1952 to start studies in art at the Chelsea School of Art in London, but this was thwarted by her legal guardian in Britain, David Phillips, who feared her parents might not approve of their daughter mixing with art students. Returning to Portugal for the holidays that summer Rego discovered quite the opposite was true, and so she applied to study art in London again, this time at the Slade School of Fine Art. She attended the Slade School of Fine Art from 1952 to 1956.
At the Slade Rego met her future husband, Victor Willing, who was also a student at the Slade. In 1957 Rego and Willing left London to live in Ericeira, Portugal. They were able to marry in 1959 following Willing’s divorce from his first wife, Hazel Whittington. Three years later Rego’s father bought the couple a house in London, at Albert Street in Camden Town and Rego’s time was spent divided between Britain and Portugal. In 1966 Rego’s father died, and the family electrical business was taken over, unwillingly, by Rego’s husband, although he had himself been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The company failed in 1974 during the Portuguese Revolution that overthrew the country’s right-wing Estado Novo dictatorship, with the production works taken over by the revolutionary forces, even though Rego’s family had been supporters of the political left. As a result, Rego, Willing and their children moved permanently to London and spent most of their time there until Willing’s death in 1988.
Although Rego was commissioned by her father to produce a series of large scale murals to decorate the works’ canteen at his electrical factory in 1954 whilst she was still a student, Rego’s artistic career effectively began in early 1962 when she began showing with The London Group, a long-established artists’ organization which included David Hockney and Frank Auerbach among its members. In 1965 she was selected to take part in a group show, Six Artists, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. That same year she had her first solo show at the Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes (SNBA) in Lisbon. She was also the Portuguese representative at the 1969 São Paulo Art Biennial. Between 1971 and 1978 she was to have seven solo shows in Portugal, in Lisbon and Oporto, and then a series of solo exhibitions in Britain, including at the AIR Gallery in London in 1981, the Arnolfini in Bristol in 1983, and the Edward Totah Gallery, London in 1984, 1985 and 1987.
In 1988, Rego was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon and the Serpentine Gallery in London. This led on to Rego being invited to become the first Associate Artist at the National Gallery, London in 1990, in what was the first of a series of artist-in-residence schemes organized by the gallery. From this emerged two sets of work. The first was a series of paintings and prints on the theme of nursery rhymes, which was toured around Britain and elsewhere by the Arts Council of Great Britain and British Council from 1991 to 1996. The second was a series of large scale paintings inspired by the paintings of Carlo Crivelli in the National Gallery, known as ‘Crivelli’s Garden’ which are now housed in the main restaurant at the gallery.
Other exhibitions include a retrospective at Tate Liverpool in 1997, Dulwich Picture Gallery in 1998, Tate Britain in 2005 and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 2007. A major retrospective was also held of her work at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid in 2007, which travelled to the Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, the following year.
In 2008, Rego showed at Marlborough Chelsea in New York and staged a retrospective of her graphic works at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Nîmes. As well as showing at Marlborough Fine Art in London in 2010, the art critic Marco Livingstone organised a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey, Mexico, which was later shown at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, Brazil.
Rego’s artwork can now be seen at public and private institutions around the world. The artist has 43 works in the collection of the British Council, 10 works in the collection of the Arts Council of England, 46 works in the Tate Gallery, London, as well as many other institutions.
STYLE AND INFLUENCES
Rego is a prolific painter and printmaker, and in earlier years was also a producer of collage work. Her most well-known depictions of folk tales and images of young girls, made largely since 1990, bring together the methods of painting and printmaking with an emphasis on strong and clearly drawn forms, in contrast to Rego’s earlier more loose style paintings.
Yet in her earliest works, such as Always at Your Excellency’s Service, painted in 1961, Rego was strongly influenced by Surrealism, particularly the work of Joan Miró. This manifested itself not only in the type of imagery that appeared in these works but in the method Rego employed which was based on the Surrealist idea of automatic drawing, in which the artist attempts to disengage the conscious mind from the making process to allow the unconscious mind to direct the image-making.
At times these paintings almost verged on abstraction, but as proven by Salazar Vomiting the Homeland, painted in 1960, even when her work veered toward abstraction a strong narrative element remained in place, with Salazar being the right-wing dictator of Portugal in power at the time.
There are two principal causes for Rego adopting a semi-abstract style in the 1960s. The first is the simple dominance of abstraction in avant-garde artistic circles at the time, which set figurative art on the defensive. But Rego was also reacting against her training at the Slade School, where a very strong emphasis had been placed on anatomical figure drawing. Under the encouragement of her fellow student and later husband Victor Willing, Rego kept a ‘secret sketchbook’, alongside her official school sketchbooks, whilst at the Slade, in which she made free form drawings of a type that would have been frowned upon by her tutors. This apparent dislike of crisp drawing techniques in the 1960s manifested itself not only in the style of works such as Faust and the Red Monkey series of the 1980s, which resemble expressionistic comic book drawing but in her acknowledged influences at the time, which included Jean Dubuffet and Chaim Soutine.
A notable change of style emerged in 1990 following Rego’s appointment to be the first ‘Associate Artist’ of the National Gallery, London, which was effectively an artist-in-residence scheme. Her brief was to ‘ work in whatever way she wished around works in the collection.’ As the National Gallery is overwhelmingly an Old Master collection Rego seems to have been pulled back towards a much clearer, or tighter, linear style that is reminiscent of the highly wrought drawing technique she would have been taught at the Slade. The result of this was a series of works which came to characterise the popular perception of Rego’s style, comprising strong clear drawing, with depictions of equally strong women in sometimes disturbing situations. Works like Crivelli’s Garden have clear links to the paintings by Carlo Crivelli in the National Gallery, but other works made at the time, like Joseph’s Dream and The Fitting, also draw spatially and in their subject matter from Old Master works by artists such as Diego Velázquez.
Having given up college in the late 1970s, Rego began using pastels as a medium in the early 1990s and continues to use this medium to this day, almost to the exclusion of oil paint.
Amongst the most notable works made in pastel are those of her Dog Women series, in which women are shown sitting, squatting, scratching and generally behaving as if they are dogs. This antithesis of what is considered feminine behaviour, and many other works in which there appears to be either the threat of female violence or its actual manifestation, has associated Rego with feminism, and she has acknowledged reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, a key feminist text, at a young age and this made a deep impression on her.] Her work also chimed with the interest of feminist writers on art such as Griselda Pollock in Freudian criticism in the 1990s, with works such as Girl Lifting up her Skirt to a Dog of 1986, and Two Girls and a Dog of 1987 appearing to have disturbing Freudian sexual undertones. However, Rego has been known to slap down critics who read too much sexual connotation into her work.
Another explanation for Rego’s depiction of women as unfeminine, animalistic or brutal beings is that this reflects the physical reality of a woman as a human being in the physical world and not idealised types in the minds of men.
Tagged: , Paula Rego , Mãe , Mother , Paper and Aluminum Pastel , Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation , Modern Collection , Calouste Gulbenkian Museum , Lisbon , Portugal , Shock of the New , ✩ Ecole des Beaux Arts✩