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Paula Rego openly cites a wide range of literary sources that includes plays, poems and novels, as a source of inspiration for her work. We invite curatorial partner of the Paula Rego, Obedience and Defiance exhibition, Alice Strang, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Galleries of Scotland to share her special literary interest in Rego’s work and introduce reading material to complement the exhibition.

Alice Strang explains,

“Rego has long been appreciated as a narrator who can re-invent and re-frame stories, freely interpreting existing accounts and interweaving them with personal anecdotes. She does not illustrate text written by others, but rather conveys its spirit, whilst mining it for material for her own creations.”

Listen Here  


Listen Here

A Paula Rego Reading List by Alice Strang Soundcloud

About Talk

In this podcast listen to Alice Strang’s insightful perspective and discover how Rego uses the literary narratives as the starting point for her own imaginative visualisations and creations. Strang introduces a selection of plays, poems and novels that includes: Honoré de Balzac, Gillette or The Unknown Masterpiece; Jean Genet, The Maids; Martin McDonagh, The Pillowman; Blake Morrison, ‘Moth’ and Eça de Queirós, The Crime of Father Amaro. By talking through these literary sources Strang makes valuable connections to Rego’s unique alchemy of interpreting an author’s vision and mining it for elements that register with Rego’s own political and personal concerns of clerical corruption, morality, systems of class and the psychological complexity of family relationships.

The Paula Rego works discussed in this podcast are featured in the top banner of this webpage. Works includes: Paula Rego, The Maids, 1987, Acrylic on Paper and Canvas, 213 x 244cm; Paula Rego, Sit, 1994, Pastel on Canvas, 160 x 120cm (not featured in the IMMA exhibition); Paula Rego, The Pillowman, 2004, Oil on Mixed media on Paper, Collage and Canvas, three panels, each 180 x 120cm, (See Installation view at IMMA, and individual panels) and Paula Rego, Painting Him Out, 2011, Pastel on paper on aluminium 119.4 x 179.7 cm.

Presented in the context of Paula Rego, Obedience and Defiance at IMMA. This is a major retrospective by one of the most influential figurative artists of our time Paula Rego. Spanning Rego’s entire career from the 1960s, comprising more than 80 works, including paintings never seen before and works on paper from the artist’s family and close friends.

Paula Rego, Obedience and Defiance is curated by the distinguished art historian and former director of Whitechapel Gallery, Catherine Lampert. The exhibition premiered in the MK Gallery, Milton Keynes (15 June – 22 September 2019); was then shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (23 November 2019 to 17 March 2020) before traveling to IMMA.

About Speaker

Alice Strang is a Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Galleries of Scotland. She curated the recent landmark exhibition Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965, which was held at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The exhibition and its accompanying publication focused on an 80 year period during which an unprecedented number of Scottish women trained and practised as artists, examining the lives and work of 45 painters and sculptors and the effect their gender had upon their experiences.

She read History of Art at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge before joining Christie’s, where she worked as a Specialist in the Impressionist and Modern, Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Art departments. She joined the National Galleries of Scotland in 1999 and is a curator of the nation’s collection of Western art from c.1890 to the present day. Strang lectures throughout the UK and is a ‘BBC Expert Woman’, most recently contributing to two episodes of Lachlan Goudie’s BBC Scotland television series The Story of Scottish Art.

Additional Reading & References

Honoré de Balzac, Gillette or The Unknown Masterpiece (translated from the French and with an essay by Anthony Rudolf), Menard Press, London 1999, ISBN 9780903400992.See more details here

Jean Genet, The Maids (translated from the French by Bernard Frechtman), Faber & Faber Ltd, London 1974, ISBN 9780571054619.See more details here

Martin McDonagh, The Pillowman, Faber & Faber Ltd, London 2003, ISBN 9780571220328. See more details here

Blake Morrison, ‘Moth’ in The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper and Other Poems, Chatto & Windus, London 1987, ISBN 9780701132279. See more details here

Eça de Queirós, The Crime of Father Amaro (translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa), New Directions Publishing Corporation, New York 2003, ISBN 9780811215329. See more details here

Anthony Rudolf, ‘European Hours (Invocations)’ in his European Hours: Collected Poems, Carcanet Press Ltd, Manchester 2017, ISBN 9781784102081.

Ed.s Anthony Spira and Catherine Lampert, Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiance, MK Gallery and Art/Books Publishing Ltd, Milton Keynes and London 2019, ISBN 978-1908970480.