[October 11 2021]
The largest London retrospective to date of the Portuguese artist – who’s been based in the city for most of her life – offers an unrivalled and extraordinarily powerful examination of her work. Opening with her intensely playful and inventive collage work and her visceral early painting, the show explores Rego’s experiences of young womanhood under Salazar’s regime in Portugal. Her acrylic paint work from the 1980s presents a vibrant clutter of animal and human figures, and intense colour play inspired by comic books, with the atmosphere amped up to a carnivalesque crescendo. While the palette is toned down in the later oil and watercolour paintings, the erotic and emotional range of desires reaches new heights, with Rego sifting through fairytale imagery, art history, and traditional storybook tales for bold pictorial allegories. Perhaps most devastating are her larger-scale works in pastel, which often focus on individual female figures, and which explore abortion, medical notions of ‘hysteria’, trafficking, and female genital mutilation. Charged with an unerring devotion to her subjects, they represent a signal shift: a translation of a howl of collective pain into a distinct and influential war cry for the rights, loves and lives of the women she depicts.
On view until 24th October 2021 at the Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
Text & Photos by Jethro Turner