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Old meets New/

Old Meets New
Paula Rego

From 25th of May to the 30th of October 2016
Exhibition prolonged until 26th of February 2017

Opening the 25th of may at 6 pm

Curatorship: Catarina Alfaro

Appropriation of stories through the written word is a fundamental and recurring exercise in Paula Rego's work. Her period of study at the Slade School of Fine Art, in London, from 1952 to 1956, was a determining factor for the stimulation of this line of research, allowing her to develop a personal figurative language in which her universe of identity references is always present.
A concern to impose a realistic stamp on her works, thus starting from the reality closest to her, that of Portugal, lies at the origin of Paula Rego's pictorial research and is also shared by the Portuguese writer she most admires, Eça de Queirós (1845-1900). The process of social and political denouncing is drawn up by both of them through close observation of daily life that reflects, despite the chronological distance separating them, the way the ideological, philosophical, political and even moral context of realism was determining in the defining of their artistic and literary paths.
The choice of the narratives from Eça de Queirós's work by Paula Rego to use as a starting point for her new series of works, Cousin Bazilio (1878) and The Relic (1887), was carried out in full coherence with the overall theme of her work: moral and social dramas; human relationships, with neither artifices nor heroes.

Paula RegoPaula Rego, Breakfast, 2015


Each scene is recreated in a visual sequence of key moments of drama, and the titles Rego gives these works may vaguely identify the plots in Eça's novels. There is no doubt that her paintings symbolically share the places and characters called up by these literary images, but above all there is always a transforming intent taken on by the artist, which autonomises the paintings in relation to the original stories. These fictions are staged, represented and reinterpreted in this space of intimacy where these stories take on life through the living models - and particularly Lila Nunes. Paula Rego also chooses the costumes, dressing all the characters in clothes created specifically for the pictorial narrative moment. Other key elements are added to the composition, the furniture and other decorative aspects - such as wallpaper, rugs, ornaments - which are here methodically incorporated. The characters occupy this stage space, directly intervening in it, taking their places on the set according to their leading or secondary role, granting a new life to the stories. In this clearly authorial and often self-referential approach the works are no longer subjected to their exterior references, in a marked strategy of transgression. They in turn gain a new meaning as, on the canvas or on paper, they are articulated with elements and stories that only have to do with the artist.
Paula Rego has used the techniques of engraving and lithography in order to express her critical voice that is often biting and socially intervening. The best examples of this social denouncing are her series Abortion (1999-2000) and Female Genital Mutilation (2009).
The latter series is presented for the first time at the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, making us aware of a terrible social problem with religious undertones that particularly affects young girls between birth and puberty. Paula Rego depicts this cruel and traumatic surgical process, creating the horrific images demanded by the subject.
Also of note in this exhibition is three works from a series of six carried out in 2014 on the life of the last king of Portugal, King Dom Manuel II, the King of Longing, in which she returns to a reflection of the life of exile begun in 1963 with the work The Exile [An old exile dreaming of his youth].