Posts Tagged ‘Paula Rego’

Blackpaint 692 – Angel of Anarchy – Eileen Agar at the Whitechapel

September 3, 2021

I’m interested to know the source of this title; it doesn’t appear in the notes. Was Agar the Angel, or did she perhaps follow the Angel of Anarchy? It sounds like a quotation or a book title – maybe her autobiography?

Anyway, it seems a misnomer to me; I see nothing in her works to suggest anarchy; as the notes suggest, her work, remarkably varied, rich and colourful as it is, seems based on an amalgam, or rather, an intermingling of Cubism and surrealism, with a streak of abstraction. Picasso, not surprisingly, seems to be an obvious influence; in this respect, and in its variety, it reminds me of the recent Dora Maar exhibition at the Tate.

Anarchy, of course, is arguably inherent in surrealism – the apparent anarchy of dream remnants, the juxtaposition of incongruous objects together in a picture frame, soft watches, furry telephones, horses stepping through bicycle wheels… so fair enough, her work has a touch (but not much) of this. I think maybe it’s more to do with her lack of inhibition than her art…dancing naked with Lee Miller in car headlights for example, before Herbert Read at Lambe Creek in Cornwall, 1937 and “not sleeping with everyone who asked me”. Interesting to know where the emphasis was in this sentence; was it on “sleeping” or “everyone”? Caroline Maclean, in her great book “Circles and Squares”, makes this country break sound something of a shagfest.

Enough of this – here are some of the pictures. I think the exhibition makes a great compare and contrast with the Paula Rego at the Tate; there’s even a symmetry in the names, Rego/Agar…..

I think the pictures are more or less chronological, as I took them going round the specified route; may be a few anomalies, but who cares.

I love the unblended patches of colour on the face and hand.

History of an Embryo

She seems to have used this compartmental mode several times.

Patches of colour again. I like the way it bends; like Wyndham Lewis… a bit.

Self portrait

That profile style will come up again.

Voracious snakes, fishes and veiled statues – an antiquarian feel here. And the compartments again.

Figure like a vase, shrouded in bright colour – lovely painting I think

And here is Agar herself in striking and very practical headgear – that’s my reflection, providing the background.

Rather Picasso – like, this one.

There’s a face at the top centre and maybe insects or crayfish down the bottom -but this is the most crowded and artfully “disorganised” work in the exhibition, I think. Also the most abstract.

This work, and even more, the one below, remind me of the pictures of the “Two Roberts”, Colquhoun and MacBryde. But they were later, of course,,,

Actually, they weren’t later – Agar lived until 1991, well past both the Roberts.

That deep, rich colour again, and the Picasso-like profile – from the “Three Dancers”, isn’t it?

This series rather reminiscent of the paintings and photos of Paul Nash (with whom Agar had an intense affair – see again Caroline Maclean, “Circles and Squares”)

Had to include these two, not just to demonstrate variety. But they are great, aren’t they?

And one of mine to finish;

New Road to Mandalay



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

August 19, 2021

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

Blackpaint 655 – St. Anthony. St. Augustine and the Floating Furniture

October 12, 2019

More Lisbon – starting with the Museo de Art Antiga

Unmistakeably, Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St. Anthony


Saint Augustine, Piero Della Francesca – I know, not obviously DF – until you notice the thousand mile gaze (below)


Californian, maybe?

These below are in Belem, the modern section of the Cultural Centre:

Michael Craig Martin, floating furniture – not the title, but could be…


Richard Serra – I think the material is graphite on paper.

Frank Stella on the wall – Anthony Caro on the floor


This is from the castle that overlooks Lisbon –  it’s a section of wall, but could be a painting – or sculpture.


Gillian Ayres, of course – but I can’t remember where it is.  The Gulbenkian, I think.  It’s a lot like that one in the Tate Britain, the one that looks like the constituent parts of a fried breakfast; in a good way, that is…


Also the Gulbenkian – don’t know who the (Portuguese) artist is for certain; think it’s Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso –  but quite like early Malevich, I think.


Back to the Antiga – also called the Museum of Discovery, by the way, just to confuse matters even more…


Fantin-Latour of course – fabulous hydrangeas, lovely tablecloth..


Just to show that even great artists have lapses of taste from time to time, I include the following two Manets:



No comment.

These next are from the Gulbenkian Museum – the first two from the modern section, the last from the Folk section:

Paula Rego – I really like her abstracts as a rule; this one a little like a Miro rendered by a young Patrick Heron?


Bill Woodrow – going for a stroll


This is from the folk art section of the Gulbenkian; it’s by Sarah Affonso, an example of the art of the Minho region.  I sort of get the impression she was on the professional end of the folk art spectrum – looks like a pretty competent piece to me.  Shades of Goncharova, I think, and Paula Rego even?

Julieta, dir Pedro Almodovar, 

This  film about guilt, unexplained disappearances and, (as often with Almodovar), incapacitated and/or comatose characters, popped up on British TV the other night.  I remember I found it reminiscent of Bunuel when I first saw it – this time, I was surprised by the ending, which I thought was different from the first time.   Then I realised I was “remembering” the ending as Bunuel would have done it, NOT Almodovar.  Almo’s ended on a note of hope and reconciliation; Bunuel’s would have ended with a further unexplained and infuriating disappearance.

Great Klimt -ish dressing gown though.


In a Marine Light




Blackpaint 617 – Put the Coffee on and Squeeze My Lemon

March 23, 2018

All Too Human, Tate Britain until 27th August – so plenty of time..

A huge and brilliant exhibition, multiple rooms of stunning paintings, but with a few puzzles; the title suggests portraits and figures, the human body/bodies and there’s plenty of that.   There are, however, also city- and landscapes (Auerbach, Kossoff, Bomberg, Creffield, Soutine).  The booklet says “All Too Human explores how artists in Britain have stretched the possibilities of paint in order to capture life around them” – about as general as you can get.  And how about Soutine?  There’s a portrait and a wild expressionist rendition of Ceret, both brilliant, but did he ever even visit Britain?  Booklet says yes, so fair enough.Anyway, below a sample of the best stuff.  I think the best is Bacon’s 1956 “Figure in a Landscape”; never seen it before (unlike most of the other pictures here) – it’s the one with the near abstract swirls of paint and the vivid, smeary blue sky.  I couldn’t find a picture of it, unfortunately.

Lucian Freud, portrait of Frank Auerbach

That bulging forehead and crooked nose, the angle..


Freud, portrait of Bella

Looming out at the viewer, those feet…

Euan Uglow, Georgia

Classic Uglow/Coldstream plotting, sculptural accuracy.

 Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lovely portrait – but it’s not is it? She paints from imagination, I believe.

In addition to these, there are Bacon triptychs –  Dyer, Rawsthorne – , a roomful of Freuds; a Sickert woman naked in a chilly grey dawn bed; Auerbach and Kossoff churches and streets and parks; Bomberg and followers (Creffield and Dorothy Mead, better than the boss for my money); three Kitajs, two of them (Cecil Court and the Wedding, the one with Sandra, obviously, and Hockney) huge splashes of vivid colour amidst the general brownishness; the weird little girls in Paula Rego’s huge, sinister tableaux.

In the last room, Yiadom – Boakye, Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville and Celia Paul.  Brown’s paintings are always worth looking closely at, to decipher what’s going on.  Celia Paul’s bear a resemblance both to Rego and Soutine, I think.  Brilliant exhibition then – apart from the FN Souza room.  I couldn’t find any pleasure in his flat, dark, spiky images of the Crucifixion et al; they did remind me a little of Wifredo Lam here and there.


Roy Oxlade, Alison Jacques Gallery until 7th April (Berners Street, W1)

Oxlade was another Bomberg pupil, but you wouldn’t know it from his work, unlike some of the more slavish acolytes.  He died in 2014, at 85; these are works from the 80s and 90s.

I loved these dowdy, barbaric, cartoonish at times, mostly big old slap-around canvases; repeating images, paint pot and brush, coffee pot (shades of Kentridge), lemon squeezer (shades of Robert Johnson).  I reckon you can see a lot of Rose Wylie in his work and vice versa; not surprising, maybe, because they were married.

Blue Stalks, 1998 

That looks like a Basquiat face, next to the flower pot.


Profile and Brushes, 1984/85

I thought this was his version of Bruegel’s Icarus (legs disappearing into the sea) until I read the title.  Hadn’t spotted the profile…


Kitchen Knife and Scissors, 1986

Dancing scissors in a stormy landscape of paintpots.


Green Curtain, 1996

Oxlade’s Rokeby Venus, maybe – no mirror though.


Yellow Lemon Squeezer and Coffee Pot, 1987

Yes, I get that – the lemon squeezer looks like an old fashioned candle holder; everything’s floating and is that a coffee pot which has grown legs? (Kentridge again).

Death of Stalin, dir. Armando Iannuci (2017)

Jason Isaacs as Zhukov

The historian Richard Overy write a very peevish critique of this brilliant film, pointing out errors – the main one I think was that Beria was no longer head of the NKVD when Stalin died.  Were 1500 would -be mourners massacred by the NKVD when they (mourners) came to town?  Nevertheless, the screenplay, based on a graphic novel, apparently, is convincing and so, decisively, is the acting: Palin as Molotov, Buscemi as Khrushchev, above all Simon Russell Beale as the demonic Beria.  Chilling and very funny, but too horrifying to raise a laugh.







Blackpaint 412 – Talent and Taste and the Darkling Plain

September 19, 2013

Jonathan Yeo at the National Portrait Gallery

Saw the Culture Show programme on Yeo last night and was suitably impressed by his technical skill.  a whole bunch of political, arty and acting celebs, instantly recognisable, in a surface spectrum from creamy smooth (Sienna Miller) to Freudian fractured – assemblies of small, variegated  planes (George W Bush).



Only when reading Yeo’s Wikipedia entry, did I discover that the Bush “variegated planes” are actually images from porn magazines, a technique that Yeo has used several times.

I think I would say the same thing about Yeo as I said about Augustus John last blog; loads of talent, dubious taste.  By that, I don’t mean the use of porn images, or painting the pregnant Sienna Miller naked; more that they seem to flatter the subjects and include little tricks and flourishes – see the Nicole Kidman above.  Apart from Bush, maybe, I can’t imagine any of his subjects being dismayed or upset at the way they have been portrayed.  Have to go and see for myself now, at the NPG.

Paul Feiler

He died this summer, when I was abroad. so I missed the obits.  The last, I think, of the 50s and 60s St. Ives generation. I considered him for a while to be the greatest living British abstract painter.  Then I “discovered” Albert Irvin – and there’s Gillian Ayres of course – but he’s still up there, I think, in terms of “the greatest” – but no longer living…


Paul Feiler

John Bellany

Another painter recently dead is Bellany.  As utterly unlike Feiler as you could imagine, his odd figures in awkward poses remind me, a little, sometimes, of Paula Rego – and RB Kitaj in his cartoon style, Unlike Rego, he often used harsh, garish colours.


bellany 2

Well, not sure about Kitaj…  Apparently, his (Bellany’s) paintings got brighter and more optimistic in tone after his liver transplant.

Old Masters, Thomas Bernhard

I recently made a facetious remark about this great book, comparing the protracted rant that it mostly is, to John Cooper Clarke’s “Evidently Chickentown” – and concluding that Clarke’s poem(?) is the greater work.  About 60% of the way through, however, certain changes begin to occur in the Bernhard book and it takes on greater depths.

Consider the following, on the uses of art after bereavement: “None of those books or writings which I had collected in the course of my life …were ultimately any use, I had been left alone by my wife and all these books and writings were ridiculous.  We think we can cling to Shakespeare or to Kant, but that is a fallacy, Shakespeare and Kant and all the rest…..let us down at the very moment when we would so badly need them, Reger said…. everything which those so-called great and important figures have thought and moreover written leaves us cold…”  So, art is no help or cure for pain – echoes of “Dover Beach” and “The Green Linnet”.

We are soon back to ranting. however; and I am gratified to find that Reger, the protagonist, believes that every great work of art is mortally flawed (see Blackpaint 387, the theory of validating crapness) and that many artists, notably El Greco, can’t do hands.  According to Reger, “El Greco’s hands all look like dirty wet face flannels”…


Tenby, Wall to Fort



Blackpaint 386 – Abstract and Figurative; Painting the Churches

March 21, 2013


The Alasdair Gray trilogy; I’ve arrived at the part where Thaw (I’m assuming this is at least semi-autobiographical) paints a giant Genesis on the ceiling and altar wall of the church.  It’s an echo of Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling and wall, of course, but without the 30 year gap – but it also closely recalls the sequence in Joyce Cary’s “The Horse’s Mouth”, with it’s appropriately Apocalyptic denouement.

The descriptions of the paintings in both books would seem to place both Thaw and Gulley Jimson in a stylistic line of British figurative painters including Stanley Spencer, the two Roberts (Colquhoun and MacBryde), Jock Mcfadyen, John Bellany, Peter Howson and Paula Rego; figurative but distorted, surrealistic..  Alasdair Gray too, of course, but not so much.. more illustrative.

Figurative and Abstract

The British figurative tradition of which the above list may be considered the extreme – left? – wing, is very strong and pervasive, having dominated movements in Britain through to street or Grafitti or Urban art whatever you like to call it.  Auerbach, Freud, Bacon, Uglow, Hockney, Blake, Doig, Shaw, Ofili, Dalwood..  OK, non-figurative; Riley, Davenport, McKeever, Ayres, Blow, Lanyon, Hilton, Heath, Feiler, Denny, Hodgkin – fair enough, just as many, if not more.. Hoyland, Wynter, Frost (Terry and Anthony), Turnbull…  What is it, then, that makes me think that abstraction is somehow not quite perceived as the British way?

Maybe it’s to do with exhibitions.  Recent big blockbusters for foreign abstractionists – Schwitters, Richter, Boetti.. when was the last big exhibition of  a British non-figurative painter?

Tate at yourpaintings

Carrying on with my trawl, there’s Albert Irvin‘s Empress (1982)

irvin empress

Sickert’s Ennui (1914) – just a fantastic image; and

Robin Denny’s Golem I (1957 – 8)

Robyn Denny; (c) Robyn Denny; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


There Will Be Blood

Glad to see this again on TV, a chance to compare Day Lewis’ Plainview with his Lincoln.  I preferred the Plainview with his John Huston voice, sudden bursts of violence and cruelty and the moustache – but you could see glimpses of Plainview in the Lincoln.

I’ve Been Loving You So Long

Far be it from me to criticize anything Kristen Scott Thomas is in – apart from the English Patient – but the ending is a cop-out.  She killed her kid as an act of mercy; he was dying from some horrible, painful disease.  At the trial, she refused to explain or defend herself and consequently, was regarded as some sort of monster.  Why resolve it like this?  Better to leave it unexplained.  Same with Festen – the father is eventually condemned for incest and rape; better if the family had continued to rally round him.  Same with The Hunt – the community re-absorbs the “molester” when he is proved innocent; better (and more true) if they’d continued to persecute him anyway.   There’s no redemption, except for celebs and politicians.  The worst cop-out was Ordet though; the religious obsessive actually manages to bring back the daughter-in-law from the dead!  What are we to make of that?

OK, here’s a couple of my pictures – not comparable to those above,I know, but it’s my blog…





Blackpaint 84

March 10, 2010

Whitechapel Gallery

Free admission to a great exhibition of drawings called “Threshold”, curated or chosen by Paula Rego and with an expensive-looking leaflet with loads of repros of the drawings.  It’s from the British Council collection.

Without looking at the leaflet, I remember the following:  several coloured drawings by Graham Sutherland, ditto from Sickert, a couple of Victor Willings, a Prunella Clough, two Burras, an Augustus and a Gwen (latter better, I think), a tiny Ofili head, a large Auerbach in black and white chalk, a Harold Gilman, Chris Orr’s “Vegetables go to School” , a Patrick Caulfield, a surprising Stanley Spencer – can’t remember more, but I’m sure there was more.  It’s only on until 14th March.

Celeste Bourgier – Mougenot

At the Barbican Curve gallery, live birds playing electric guitars for free.  Everyone there was smiling – and it was free.

RIP – painted over this (above), over last two days – now looks like this (below – but still changing)

Listening to “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash.

“On a Sunday morning sidewalk, I’m wishing, Lord, that I was  stoned,

‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone;

And there’s nothing short of dying, half so lonesome as the sound

Of a sleeping city sidewalk, and Sunday morning coming down”.