Wednesday 30 November 2022

Leamington Spa Art Gallery - some of my favourites

We went to see the Open 2022 exhibition in the Leamington Art Gallery and I took the opportunity to have another look at the permanent collection. These are some of my favourites.

Dorothea Sharp, Where Children Play and Seagulls Fly, 1924, (oil on canvas)

This is one of my favourites in the gallery and I always pop in to have a look at it. Can't really explain why: the broad brushstrokes, and the evocation of a happy and contented idyl in which the sun always shines?

Dod Procter, The Innocent, A New Day, (oil on canvas)

Procter was among the first generation of female artists that had unimpeded access to nude life drawing classes.

Edmund de Waal, water-shed, 2010, (white lacquer, wood and ceramic)

This work was commissioned for an exhibition of the same name which took place at Leamington Art Gallery in 2010. It was inspired by the history of the Royal Pump Rooms as a place where medical treatments, including hydrotherapy, were administered.

Laurence Stephen Lowry, The Mission Room, 1937, (oil on board)

Lucy Elizabeth Kemp-Welch, Winer's White Silence, 1923-24, (oil on canvas)

Kemp-Welch is known as one of the most consummate painters of horses in modern British art.

Simon Lewty, The Men Who Lie in the Road, 1991, (ink and acrylic on tissue paper)

The work was inspired by the village of Old Milverton, two miles north of Leamington Spa, which Lewty has described as marginal land, neither town or country. In Lewty's painting, recognisable areas such as barn, wall and field have been overlaid with text and inhabited by curious humanoid figures. These figures were inspired by the discarded remains of root vegetables Lewty saw strewn across the fields after the harvesting 'like figures in a battlefield'. The diagrams and text are reminiscent of ancient maps and manuscripts, their meaning at once obscure and tantalising.

Terry Frost, Sun and Boat, 1992-96, (screenprint with hand-colouring)

Terry Frost, Swing Red Newlyn, 1998, (screenprint)

Terry Frost, Untitled, 2003, (painted steel)


Sunday 27 November 2022

Paula Rego at the Casa das Historias

I posted on Paula Rego's museum, Casa das Historias, back in July and you can see that post here . I have now, finally, managed to complete the task by blogging on the exhibition inside the museum.

Paula Rego at the Casa das Historias, in Cascais.

Paula Rego is particularly known for her paintings and prints based on storybooks. Her style evolved from abstract towards representation, and she favoured pastels over oils for much of her career. Her work often reflects feminism, coloured by folk-themes from her native Portugal. 

Rego used two typical tropes of Western art history: 'the gaze', and 'the reclining nude'. She utilised the gaze in conscious ways to challenge the viewer by having the woman or girl look directly at the viewer or away in agony or closing her eyes in pain. The reclining nude brings up that push and pull between sexual attraction, the act of sex and the physical outcomes like pregnancy and miscarriage that occur as a result of sex.

She was a prolific painter and printmaker, and in earlier years also produced collage work. Her well-known depictions of folk tales and images of young girls, made largely since 1990, brought together methods of painting and printmaking that emphasised strong, clearly drawn forms, in contrast to the looser style of her earlier paintings.

In her earlier works, she was strongly influenced by Surrealism, and particularly the work of joan Miro. This shows itself not only in the type of imagery that appears in these works, but in the method employed, which is based on the Surrealist idea of automatic drawing, in which the artist attempts to disengage the conscious mind from the making process in order to allow the unconscious mind to direct the making of an image. At times these paintings almost verged on abstraction. However, even when her work veered toward abstraction, a strong narrative element remained in place.

A notable change in Rego's style emerged in 1990. The result was a series of works that came to characterise the populat perception of Rego's style, combining strong clear drawing with depctions of equally strong women in sometimes disturbing situations.

September Afternoon, 1960-61, (crayon and paper glued on canvas)

The Siege, 1976, (acrylic)

On the Beach, 1985, (acrylic on canvas)

Bear and Harpies, 1982, (screenprint)

Study (Girl), 1983, (acrylic paint on paper)

Girl and Goat, 1983, (acrylic, paint on paper)

Bear with Glasses, 1985, (Indian ink on paper)

Dr Cat, 1982, (coloured lithograph)

Dr Dog, 1982,  (coloured lithograph)

Untitled, 1985, (acrylic paint on paper)

Untitled, 1985, (acrylic on paper)

Dog Woman, 1994, (etching and aquatint)

Among the most notable works were those in her Dog Women series, in which women were shown sitting, squatting, scratching, and generally behaving as if they were dogs. This antithesis of what is considered femimine behaviour, and many of her other works in which there appeared to be either the threat of female violence of its actual manifestation, caused Rego to be associated with feminism. Rego acknowledged reading at a young age Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, and that this made a deep impression on her. Her work also seems to chime with the interest in Freudian criticism shown by feminist writers on art in the 1990s, such as Griselda Pollock, with works such as Girl Lifting up her Skirt to a Dog of 1986, and Two girls and Dog of 1987 appearing to have disturbing sexual undertones. However, Rego was known to rebuke critics who read too much sexual content in her work. 

Another explanation for Rego's depiction of women as unfeminine, animalistic or brutal beings is that this reflected the physical reality of women as human beings in the physical world, rather than the idealised female type in the minds of men.

Him, 1996, (etching and aquatint)

Romeo and Juliet, 1984, (acrylic on hardboard)

The Cigarette, 2006, (pastel on cardboard)

Fire, n.d. (coloured lithograph)

Girl with Bird, 1997, (screenprint)

Girl with Marabou, (lithograph)

Scarecrow, 2006, (coloured lithograph)

Accordion, n.d. (etching)

Apres La Fete I, 2003, (coloured lithograph)

Fado, 1995, (screenprint)

Mist II, 1996, (etching and aquatint)

Girl who has been sick resting with her favourite cuddly, 2000, (lithograph)

Mother with Big Daughter, 1997, (screenprint)

Girl with Two Mothers, 2000, (screenprint)

Lullaby, (from the series Female Genital Mutilation), 2009, (etching and aquatint)

Night Bride, (from the series Female Genital Mutilation), 2009, (etching and aquatint)

Circumcision, (from the series Female Genital Mutilation), 2009, (etching and aquatint)

Stitched and Bound, (from the series Female Genital Mutilation), 2009, (etching and aquatint)

Mother Loves You, (from the series Female Genital Mutilation), 2009, (etching and aquatint)

Escape, (from the series Female Genital Mutilation), 2009, (etching and aquatint)

Lullaby (The House of Fairy Tales), 2008, (etching)

A Dame with the Goat's Foot, 2013, (etching, aquatint and spite bite aquatint)

The Dame with the Goat's Foot Mounting a Donkey, 2013, (etching, aquatint and spite bite aquatint)

Penetration, 2009-10, (etching, aquatint and spite bite aquatint)

Death Goes Shopping, 2009-10, (etching, aquatint and spit bite aquatint)

Life Room III, 2005

Life Room II, 2005

Life Room I, 2005, (coloured lithograph)

Mother, 2001, (pastel on paper mounted on aluminium)

The Tweaking Game, 2015, (coloured etching and aquatint)


Even though there were no works from Rego's Abortion Series in this exhibition, I would like to comment on those.

Rego was a critic of the anti-abortion movement, using the theme of abortion as a focal point in much of her art. She opposed the criminalisation of abortion and said that the anti-abortion movement 'criminalises women'. She also stated that the matter disproportionately affected poor women, as for the rich was it easier to find a safe way to have an abortion due to being able to travel abroad for the procedure. She created the Abortion Series documenting illegal abortions in response to Portugal's 1998 referendum on abortion. The referendum aimed to legalise abortions, but the law was not passed.

The series, known as Untitled: The Abortion Pastels show images of women in various positions, such as fetal, squatting, etc. either getting ready to have an abortion, in the process of having one, or in pain from the procedure. 

In a 2002 interview Rego stated: 'The series was born from my indignation... It is unbelievable that women who have an abortion should be considered criminals. It reminds me of the past... I cannot abide the idea of blame in relation to this act. What each woman suffers in having to do it is enough. But all this stems from Portugal's totalitarian past, from women dressed up in aprons, baking cakes like good housewives. In democratic Portugal today there there is still a subtle form of oppression. The question of abortion is part of all that violent context'.