Paula Rego began to experiment with pastels in 1994. She became completely seduced by the tactile quality of the material, which she described as ‘like painting with your fingers’. These works are constructed out of raw and expressive gestures that are subject to constant alteration. Each canvas becomes saturated with thickly textured marks layered one on top of the other. This use of pastels intensifies the menacing corporeality of her enigmatic figures.
Rego continues to challenge traditional ideas about femininity, but the way she constructs her narratives has evolved and grown in sophistication. Many of these works are inspired by familiar stories borrowed from art history, plays and fairytales; yet through the process of making she completely reshapes them by suffusing the pictures with her own personal experiences.
Rego hardly ever plans to produce more than a single canvas, but as she works her images become increasingly complex and often stretch out beyond the limits of the original pictorial space. Many of her stories develop into series, often taking the form of a triptych, but she does not necessarily adhere to the traditional conventions of this form, preferring to keep the narrative fluid and variable.