Tate Britain Collection Display Rooms
25 October 2004 – 3 January 2005
An exhibition of the work of Paula Rego will open at Tate Britain on 27 October. The exhibition is the first in Tate Britain’s new biennial series of concise exhibitions featuring the work of senior British artists. Rego is one of the most respected painters working in Britain today and the exhibition will include a selection of key drawings and paintings drawn from several phases of her long career.
Paula Rego was born in Portugal in 1935. Her works are distinguished by their complex and dramatic narratives which take both real and imagined stories as their starting points. Beginning with these sources, Rego allows the stories to evolve out of the process of making the work. The finished pictures are never simple illustrations; the characters and the course of the action change and develop as she works.
Among the works featuring in the exhibition are Rego’s paintings of the mid-1960s. These are filled with semi-abstract figures and have strong links to Surrealism and the technique of automatic drawing. Many of these works respond to the political climate in Portugal in the 1960s under the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. More recently, Rego has turned her attention to contemporary social injustices. Her work Triptych 1998, included in this display, is a response to a referendum recently held in Portugal on the subject of legalising abortion. Also included, and shown for the first time in this exhibition, is a major new triptych titled The Pillowman made in response to Martin McDonagh‘s play at the National Theatre in 2003.
During the 1980s Rego made some of her best-known works, many of which depict domestic scenes and relationships. Less overtly political and more autobiographical in their subject matter, these works investigate femininity. Works such as The Dance 1988 depict a variety of female roles and explore how identity may be constructed through the relationships that exist among women as well as those between women and men. Rego’s recent monumental work Betrothal; Lessons; Shipwreck; After Marriage à la Mode by Hogarth 1999 continues her investigation of these relationships. Taking as her starting point Hogarth’s seminal series of paintings about a doomed arranged marriage, Rego transported the action to 1940s Portugal, telling the story of the negotiation and subsequent marriage in the form of a triptych that also alludes to the politics of Portuguese colonialism.
This display will include important works drawn from the Tate Collection as well as loans from public and private collections. Highlighting Rego’s use of a variety of media and the recurrent themes in her work, the display will focus on specific points of connection between her early, mid-career and very recent work.
The exhibition is selected by Tate Curator Kathryn Rattee in close collaboration with the artist. A 16-page full-colour booklet (£2.50) will be available at Tate Shops along with Fiona Bradley’s recent book on Paula Rego for Tate Publishing’s Modern Artists series (£12.99).