Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday Artist: Paula Rego

Secrets & Stories Film Poster

An internationally renowned figurative artist, Dame Paula Rego (b. 1935 in Portugal) has been the subject of several insightful films: a 47-minute documentary, Paula Rego: Telling Tales (Jake Auerbach Films, 2009; see clip below) and, more recently, the 94-minute Paula Rego: Secrets & Stories (Kismet Film Company, 2017; also known as Paula Rego: Drawing from Life; trailer unavailable at time of writing), which was screened March 17 at Wadham College, University of Oxford, as part of the "Transnational Portuguese Women Artists Conference" and subsequently broadcast on March 25 on BBC2.

The latter, directed by her son, filmmaker and writer Nick Willing, and produced by Michele Camarda, relates how Rego, who is bipolar, managed to survive crushing depression in 2006-2007 chiefly by making self-portraits—large pastels on paper whose existence had been kept a secret (Rego had kept them locked away) and that Willing first learned of when Rego was 80. Willing's film also explores Rego's relationship with artist Victor Willing (1928-1988), as well as Rego's and Nick Willing's own. In addition, the film discusses Rego's affairs and abortions, alcohol and drug abuse, political and financial problems, and art's place in her physically and emotionally difficult life. It makes use as well of archival home movies, family photographs, interviews.

Previously unseen, eleven of the self-portraits titled The Depression Series were displayed in "Paula Rego: works on paper" at Marlborough Fine Art in London from March 13 to April 1, 2017 (see exhibition image below). 

Paula Rego, Sketch from Depression Series
Marlborough Fine Art, London

Paula Rego's first major show, in Britain, was in 1987; the following year, she was shortlisted for the prestigious Turner prize. She was the first Artist-in-Residence (1990) at the National Gallery, London. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2010 (the fourth female painter to receive the honor). A retrospective of her work took place in Portugal, at Serralves Museum in 2004; in 2009, the country built a public museum for Rego, named House of Stories (Casa das Historias Paula Rego), in Cascais. More than 30 books have been written about Rego's art, and her work is in the public collections of the National Gallery, London; National Portrait Gallery, London; and Tate Gallery, among others.

Rego maintains a working studio in London's Camden Town.

Of Interest

Juliet Rix, "All About My Mother: The Demons of Paula Rego — By Her Son", The Guardian, March 9, 2017

Benjamin Secher, "Paula Rego: 'It's horrible to be so old and still so afraid'", The Telegraph, October 2, 2016.

Paula Rego, "Paula Rego, 80: 'Painting is not a career. It's an inspiration.'", The Guardian, November 15, 2015.

Simon Hattenstone, "'You punish people with drawings'", The Guardian, August 21, 2009

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