Blackpaint 691 – Paula Rego; a Damned Good Thrashing in my Party Dress


The Paula Rego that we have become familiar with, she of the stumpy, intense young girl, waltzing with other couples on the turf at night, polishing father’s high boots with one arm thrust all the way inside, rubbing herself suggestively against Daddy’s crotch while mother distracts him by pulling a cloth over his face – this is just the latest stylistic approach of an astonishingly versatile painter with a febrile imagination. The current show at Tate Britain, whilst a little biased towards this phase, does show us something of earlier tropes, as I hope this blog will demonstrate.

Under Milk Wood

Shades of John Bellany, references to Velasquez (the fried eggs)… Maybe something of early Prunella Clough too?

Touch of David Bomberg here?

Salazar Vomiting on Democracy

Reminiscent of Asger Jorn, I think. Looks like a giant papaya in the middle. That’s the Portuguese dictator Salazar bent over like a pin-headed Humpty Dumpty, with a thin gush of greenish puke curling out of his mouth.

Don’t recall title of this one; called it “Confusion” in my notes. Graphic, rather collage-y, objects half-realised or morphing in a dreamlike fashion; there’s a young person in a coat, a penknife, a pennant, a fish or turtle head, insects(?), a leaf spray….

Is she shaving the dog or cutting its throat? The former , I think, From the next picture, I guess there is a Jungian sexual meaning here. I’m not sure – did Jung do sex too or was that only Freud? The booklet mentions Rego’s interest in Jung, so I’ll go with him.

Girl showing her sex to a dog – who looks pretty unimpressed. Is the dog a male figure, maybe Father? Easy to interpret it this way, given some of her other output. Or maybe it’s Victor Willing, her artist husband…

Hey Diddle Diddle – she did a series of illustrations to nursery rhymes as etchings; here’s an example.

An illustration of an incident in a short story by Joyce Carol Oates; note the brilliant rendition of the satin party dress (or is it a confirmation dress? Don’t know the story); Rego is great on fabrics. I would be interested to read a feminist critique of Rego – there must be loads, surely. The booklet. I think, plays it safe, mentioning the anti-fascist, anti-patriarchal stance; I’m more interested, as a man would be no doubt, in the ambiguity towards men, particularly authority figures, her work displays. I feel there’s a touch of Sylvia Plath in there, that poem to her daddy came to me when I was looking at the one where she’s (I guess it’s Rego herself) polishing the boots with one arm plunged in up to the armpit… What do I know? But then, what do you make of a feminist who paints a woman, being beaten on her bare bottom with sticks by two little girls?

Hogarthian – The similarities to The Rake’s Progress are very obvious. What’s going on in the back room – is that a woman bending over or a man in women’s underwear? Elsewhere in this exhibition, men dress in women’s clothes… There’s that party/confirmation dress again – and the indifferent dog, positioned conveniently for another view, but not interested…

There’s a whole room of reclining women in various postures, that come under the general title of Abortion. I think this is one of them. There is also a room on the theme of FGM. Those powerful arms and legs….

I’m not going to attempt a comment on this painting or the next; no doubt the more courageous would have plenty to say on colonialism, female sexuality, soft toys and the bearing of crosses – I will confine myself to pointing out the excellent rendition of the velvet cloak.

And the satin backcloth here. Looks like a brothel scene, doesn’t it? Superficially , I mean, the way the women are sitting bored, resigned, fondling their soft black dolls.

Rather from the sublime to the ridiculous, I’m going to put in one of my own new pictures here, just because it’s my blog and I can.

Orinoco, Blackpaint

Blackpaint 19/08/2021

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