Monday, 20 September 2010

An artist who tells stories

While browsing Jurgen Wolff's Time to Write blog I discovered the following post on Portugese artist, Paula Rego:
Paula Rego's paintings always suggest a story--often a dark story. It was interesting to read what her daughter said about her mother's process in an article in the London Sunday Times magazine some time ago:

"Pivotal to her work was storytelling, and inspiration would come from everywhere: nursery rhymes, poetry, plays, novels..She also addressed issues that were close to her heart, like abortion and the political oppression she'd grown up with in Portugal. Her work has always been visceral, symbolic; a world where humans often end up as animals--dogs, rabbits, bears, monkeys. It's all about the joy and pain of the human condition."

Because her style was different, Rego struggled for years to get recognition. But she was compulsive about creating and eventually she broke through. Just looking at her paintings is a great stimulus for any storyteller.

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Intrigued by Jurgen's post, I googled Paula Rego and found some fascinating paintings by Paula and another interesting blog post telling of the link between her art and storytelling which I have copied below:

 Paula Rego is not only a leading contemporary female artist, but also a wonderful story teller. All of her paintings are narratives, based on literature, observation, experience, or imagination. Looking Out is the story of a woman who wastes her entire days looking out her window hoping to catch a glimpse of the priest with whom she had an affair. The Jane Eyre lithographs were inspired by the novel The Wild Sargasso Sea, which is about Bertha, a character in Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece Jane Eyre. In addition, The Maids is an account based on Jean Genet’s play in which two sisters kill the woman they work for and try on her clothes.

While Rego’s primary goal may be to entertain viewers through the art of storytelling, as a woman painting women it is impossible for her messages to be completely separated from gender. As I see it, most of her works including the ones mentioned above serve as a commentary on the position of women in society. The woman in Looking Out has been condemned to a life of isolation and imprisonment because she got pregnant by a priest. Meanwhile, the man walks free without sharing the blame and continues his life like nothing ever happened. The Jane Eyre lithographs, on the other hand, portray a strong, brave, admirable character to which the entire female gender can look for inspiration. Meanwhile The maids is a psychologically intriguing depiction of women which gives some insight into the complexity of the female mind and emotions.

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I have used paintings to stimulate writing for myself and in my creating writing classes. Later this week I'll post an exercise using Impressionist paintings. In the meantime you might like to search the web for paintings which inspire you. Do let me know what you find! If there's any Paula Rego fans reading this, please tell me your favourites.

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