Paula Rego at Tate Britain

for GD – thank you for a lovely day.

Just look at those shoes! and the colour of the skirt! I am no art critic, being of the ilk of I know what I like, and I like what I know, though I am always open to new things and here is a case in point. My son suggested that I go to this exhibition and luckily I got the last two tickets for the day. How I miss the ability to pop into a gallery on a whim. I have over the years seen and learnt so much by these spontaneous visits – now everything has to be planned and organised and on time. I’m not particularly good at that, so the delectation of art becomes ever more stressful.

Still last Tuesday I managed to get myself to Pimlico only about twenty minutes late and to the gallery for our visit about ten minutes late. We were let in, luckily and then what a feast for the eyes.

Now you can look up Paula Rego’s life and politics somewhere else. I do not feel qualified to instruct you but just to share my impressions. and my goodness is she an impressive artist.

She practised many different styles of art during the decades of her life so far, some more attractive or disturbing than others, but this exhibition, which was very big, was absolutely fascinating as you could trace her life story through her development of feminism in the best sense of the word, her stand against violence and the frequent brutality of men.

But what struck me most was her use of colour. She worked in collage, oils and pastels. Her use of each medium is quite phenomenal. There are many moments when you are transported right into the heart of the moment. This is helped often by the size of the works. A lot are very big, which does not of course come across in a photograph. neither do the textures.

But let me show you some of what I saw and try to explain why it meant something to me.

These two images based on Portuguese folk tales “Brancaflor” reminded me of a coloured Aubrey Beardsley. there is so much to see – looks so deceptively easy to draw. I am always attracted to pictures that I think I could draw. I can’t of course. but I like to see the stories in them.

This picture of The Family 1988 is quite disturbing. Mother and daughter helping father out of? into his clothes. Why can’t we see his face? other daughter looking on. what’s the significance of the tulip. i must say the image of the little theatre in the bedroom intrigues me. if you enlarge the image it is a very modern Madonna looking down on St George possibly, slaying the dragon.

This has to be my favourite of the whole exhibition. If I were still teaching this is the picture I would give to my students to talk about. I really miss those days when I could take a small group of teenagers to the Tate and let them loose on the ART. Sometimes one would stand in front of a picture and expound – occasionally get angry even, and definitely excited. Several times I noticed other visitors stopping to listen, because my pupils, who had learning difficulties, were occasionally very insightful. no inhibitions, no sense of what should be said. It was wonderful in many ways. I myself try to recapture that sense of awe and excitement, though i cannot always stop myself from analysing what it is I am encountering and why I am reacting in such a way.

Anyway, back to Paula Rego and her very visceral paintings and sculptures.

I haven’t come across many geese in real life – this one seems more life like than most. Whatever the story behind it is – just look at the whites.

And now for the greens; if ever a cabbage could be called glorious you see it here:

George Sand. There she goes again. Two weeks ago in Mallorca. Lover of Chopin and many others. she went to my school as I have mentioned before. she keeps on cropping up.

Again, note the white of the dress.
The hairdryer. What are they looking at?
This Pieta is very moving. It’s the third panel of the Hogarth impressions.
This pastel is called “Target”. The violence of the subtext contrasted with the realism of the drawing I can feel in the pit of my stomach.
This necessarily horrific image brings home the painful decision making of the girl.

Very different though equally visceral image below.

I have taken you on a whistlestop tour of the exhibition at the Tate. I have posted all the photos I took and doing so I discovered that some of the images I remembered are not here. The very first painting that struck me was the first painting, of Paula Rego’s father, at the beginning of the show. She was fifteen when she painted it, and was immediately extremely impressive. I did not take a photo. Never mind.

If you have read this far please tell me what you think.

3 comments on “Paula Rego at Tate Britain

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