Thursday, 8 July 2010
Paula Rego: The Oratorio, Marlborough Fine Art, London (7th july-20th August)
Just as it is difficult to write a review of something you know absolutely nothing about, so it is a challenge to write about something you are passionate about. I will attempt to resist the urge to gush about Paula Rego. After years of flicking through her books with a gasp for every page, for every reproduced print or painting this was my first time seeing her work in the flesh. And there is so much flesh about Rego's work that it calls to be seen first hand in a small gallery space where there is no possibility of averting the eye or flicking past the page.
Another Rego fan who asks me to take a picture of him and his nephew in front of the Oratorio, the crowning Triptych of the exhibition, says 'Paula doesn't shy away from anything.' but in this exhibition I feel this more than ever. Familiar elements of Rego's work can be glimpsed but the nightmarish undertones have taken over, so that the grotesque figure of the deformed midwife, the woman with wrinkled gourds for breasts who performs the circumcision, are no longer the nightmare in the background but the reality in the foreground.
Rego's work is still folkloric, timeless and placeless but the issues it has swallowed and spat out are not. Female circumcision and abandoned babies, rape and oppression.