Paula Rego does not consider herself an artist since she "has never worked with oils." She says that to be an artist you must paint with oils. She is more comfortable with the term "drawer." Whether she considers herself an artist or not seems to be a rather moot point as her work seems to tell a different story all together. Rego was born and for the most part raised in Portugal and embarked on her artistic career at the early age of 4 years old. When I first came across her work I was instantly drawn to the terrible beauty of the surreal imagery that seemed to draw you in as much as it pushes you away. "Olga" for example depicts a male German immigrant dressed as a maid with a child seductively or not tucked into his/her lap while a train has just passed by on its way to Auschwitz. Her work is often mysterious and fantastical. She draws largely on Portuguese folk tales, childrens stories such as Mother Goose, Red Ridng Hood, and Peter Pan. She also is inspired by such works as Kafka's "Metamorphosis, Martin McDonagh's "Pillow Man" and the "Sin of Father Amaro" by the 19th century Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz. Her work is also largely autobiographical. Her prints and work are often filled with scenes from her "bourgeois" upbringing complete with maids, well dressed mothers and grandmothers, and the reoccuring figures of neat little girls conscious of their social class. These images from her childhood are often juxtaposed against undercurrents of sexual transgression, cruelty and unease.
Rego was born in 1935, the only child of a prosperous middle class family. Her parents left for England when she was young and she spent a brief spell under the care of her grandmother and her maid who both regaled her with countless fables and stories. Rego grew up during the dictatorship of Salazar where Portugal was a place of political repression and cultural suppression. A Portugal in which according to Rego, "Men were running the show. Upper class women went to church and played Canasta while working class women worked like donkeys." In works such as "Celestina's House," her childhood seems not so much a distant memory as a vivid portrait constantly haunting her subconscious for good or ill.
One of the best places to see Rego work and prints is in Cascais at the "Casa das Historias."
The Casa das Historias is a recently commisioned building by the architect Eduardo Sota de Moura. Moura is one of Portugals most important and current architects. He worked alongside Álvaro Siza Viera, at the latters architecture firm in Porto. The building was commisioned by the Mayor of Cascais. The Casa das Historias is a perfect class in Mouras work with its bold shapes, accentuated by intricately patterned terracotta exterior. Moura built the museum with the intention of balancing the space between the ground and the surrounding tree tops. It's Yin/Yang, natural vs manmade style is a mix of elements from traditional Portuguese homes and modern structures.
Casa Das Historias Google Map
Casa das Historias by Eduard Sota de Moura in Cascais
Celestina's House by Paula Rego
Dog Woman by Paula Rego
"Olga" by Paula Rego
Paula Rego in her studio