Paula Rego, ‘The Firemen of Alijo’ 1966
Paula Rego
The Firemen of Alijo 1966
Tate
© Paula Rego
Paula Rego The Exile 1963

Paula Rego
The Exile  1963
© the artist

This first room introduces Paula Rego’s early work, from the 1960s. During this decade she produced a series of highly subversive, overtly political, collage-based works. They express Rego’s hatred of the oppressive conditions she grew up with, under the Fascist regime of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal. She first exhibited these works at the Galeria de Arte in Lisbon in 1965-6, establishing her reputation as a confrontational political artist.

Both the political message and the process of making undermine restrictive authority and established order. The collage-based works interweave images that stem from personal experience, the imagination and the unconscious mind. Rego began her pictures by drawing forms onto different pieces of paper and then violently cutting them up. She then pulled together a fractured narrative by intuitively repositioning and reworking the pieces onto a canvas until they ‘felt just right.’ Rego deliberately disrupts any sense of structured order. The colourful and brutalised shapes are nearly impenetrable in their complexity, but they always have a story to tell.