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Paula Rego: Folktales and fairy tales/

Paula Rego: Folktales and fairy tales

8 may-30 september 2018

Paula Rego's research into this rich literary universe began in 1974, when she produced a series of illustrations dedicated to traditional Portuguese folktales. They are violent and cruel stories, in which the artist rediscovers not only her childhood memories but also an acute sense of fear. In 1976 she submitted an application for a grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in which she proposed to "produce a prolific number of illustrations of Portuguese traditional tales or integrate these timeless stories into our contemporary mythology and personal experience through paintings." Since then, folktales and fairy tales have been a fertile source of inspiration for the artist's creative work.

Her approach to folktales is markedly authorial and often self-referential. In her works, the stories - that are aligned in a fantasy aesthetic and explore themes of enchantment, love and seduction, power and subjugation, fear and terror, and above all transgression - cease to be subjected to these external references, in a clearly delineated strategy of insubmission. The tales, in turn, gain fresh meaning through articulation, on screen or on paper, with elements and stories from the artist's own personal universe.

In her free interpretation of these stories, that form part of her imaginary universe, Paula Rego introduces the voice of women, which has always been a dominant feature of the oral tradition of fairy tales. She is both a character and narrator of these timeless stories, reinscribing them in her own epoch. In this process, in which she uses painting to tell stories, we always see her questioning, and crude and often brutal revelation of human nature and of the relationships that people establish with each other, whether based on family ties, love or political relations. She uses fairy tales to reveal and, above all, deconstruct established models of socialization and, more specifically, the roles that society assigned to women in her epoch.


Curatorship: Catarina Alfaro e Leonor de Oliveira

Paula Rego