Paula Rego: O Grito da Imaginação [Paula Rego: The Scream of Imagination]
30 october 2020 — 18 may 2021
Curator: Marta Almeida

The point of departure for the exhibition Paula Rego: O Grito da Imaginação is the painter’s works in the Serralves Collection, which represent different phases in the production of the most internationally recognized Portuguese artist. At the intersection of personal memories and multiple references to the pictorial and literary tradition, Paula Rego’s work is characterised by an obsessive approach to the most shadowy, profound and ambiguous aspects of human relationships and the interaction between the individual and the collective. Either in extravagant compositions bristling with humour and irony, or in denser, carefully staged pictorial narratives, the painter carries out a clear-sighted exploration of themes such as power and obedience, physical and psychological pain, shame and pride, violence, solitude and sociability. The exhibition features dozens of paintings from the Serralves Collection, mostly from the 1970s and 1980s, together with Rego’s works in the Norlinda and José Lima Collection and art brut and outsider art work from the Treger/Saint Silvestre Collection, both resident at Oliva Art Centre. This exhibition project examines the relationships between works in the collections of Oliva Art Centre which potentiate the knowledge of, and new approaches to the painter’s oeuvre. Paula Rego was deeply influenced by her contact with outsider art and the oeuvre of Jean Dubuffet, the artist and theoretician who created the concept of art brut. In the 1980s, the artist produced a vast series of paintings called Vivian Girls, which are among the most significant in her oeuvre and emerged as a consequence of her contact with the work of Henry Darger (1892-1973), one of the most important names in the history of international art brut, whose sole work in Portugal, in the Treger/Saint Silvestre Collection, is on loan at Oliva Art Centre. Also in the 1980s, she produced a series of paintings that pay tribute to Jean Dubuffet; these are represented in the Serralves Collection and Oliva Art Centre. As the artist pointed out, the Vivian Girls were based on Darger’s girls and correspond to literary fantasies of little warrior girls, like the universes staged by Paula Rego. In this sense, the contact with the oeuvre of French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) in 1959 spurred her to apply a mode of making art that brought about the invention of parallel worlds, metamorphoses of human and animal bodies enmeshed in complex narrative compositions. During the exhibition’s duration, the film “Paula Rego, Stories and Secrets”, by Nick Willing, is shown.

Visit to the exhibition by the curator Marta Almeida

Views of the exhibition “Paula Rego: The cry of imagination. Works from the Serralves Collection”, Centro de Arte Oliva, São João da Madeira, from October 30, 2020 to February 7, 2021, integrated into the itinerancy program of the Serralves Foundation – Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto. Photographs © Filipe Braga e Rui Apolinário