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Victor Willing/

Victor Willing: A Retrospective

9 September 2010 - 2 January 2011

Futuras ImagemVictor Willing, Place, 1976-78 (triptych) - Collection Paula Rego loan for use to Fundação Paula Rego/Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, Cascais

Victor Willing was born in Alexandria in 1928 and died in London in 1988.

From 1957 until 1974 he and his wife Paula Rego, whom he met at the Slade School in London in 1953, lived between Ericeira and London. In 1966 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; and in the same year he took over his father-in-law's electronic parts company in Lisbon. He returned permanently to London in 1974. Between 1957 and 1974 he painted intermittently. He returned to painting full-time and produced a major body of work following his move to London in 1974. A retrospective exhibition of his paintings and drawings was held at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1986. His work has never before been shown in Portugal.

In his paintings Willing endowed objects with palpable presence, colour and light, embedded in space in a moment of time, suspended between past and future. Paint is applied rapidly, so as to render as truthfully as possible the thought behind the image. The paintings' compositional structure has a carefully adjusted measure of looseness, resembling drawings on a large scale, inviting the observer to enter and inhabit the painted scenario. The paintings executed between 1974 to 1984 are pregnant with the absence as well as the implied presence of a protagonist, who may be the observer or the artist himself. The loose structure, openness, and the physical presence of color and light in space by which the observer is drawn into the paintings are strategies of the Baroque painters of the seventeenth century, who thereby created coherent images of religious, historical, or mythological subjects. Willing adopted similar strategies in the paintings of 1974 to 1984, endowing incongruous images arising from reveries and visions rooted in the unconscious with fullness and truthfulness of physical, pictorial form. Because the paintings are executed in an immediate, direct, straightforward manner, the observer is not distracted by speculation as to what is meant but is left to concentrate on what is there.

«I think they are scenarios» Willing said in 1985, «where something has happened or is about to happen but is not happening at the time. And so they carry with them a mood, and I think this is what people recognize, because they have fallen into a similar state of expectation or remembrance when they look at the paintings».