Folklore, feminism, fairy tales and Fantasia at new exhibition

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 October 2016

Paula Rego's Dancing Ostriches from Disney's Fantasia 1995

Paula Rego's Dancing Ostriches from Disney's Fantasia 1995

Archant

Hampstead artist Paula Rego has often returned to folklore and fairytale for subject matter as her latest exhibition reveals

Paula Rego's Dancing Ostriches from Disney's Fantasia 1995Paula Rego's Dancing Ostriches from Disney's Fantasia 1995

Folklore, feminism and fairy tales are common themes in Paula Rego’s work and there’s a mythic quality to her huge pastels which recast ostriches as a troupe of sturdy ballerinas.

Rego’s large scale series; Dancing Ostriches from Disney’s Fantasia was originally commissioned for a 1996 Hayward Gallery exhibition marking the centenary of cinema in Britain. They are now on show at Marlborough Fine Art until November 12.

Growing up in her native Portugal Rego confessed to being both fascinated and terrified of Walt Disney’s films, with the dance of the ostriches from experimental 1940 animation Fantasia standing out as a vivid memory.

Rego considers Disney a modern counterpart to the traditional fairy tales told to her as a child, and the surreal works draw from memory but also use Lila, her assistant in her Kentish Town studio, as a life model.

Paula Rego's Dancing Ostriches from Disney's Fantasia 1995Paula Rego's Dancing Ostriches from Disney's Fantasia 1995

Like Rego’s Dog Women series, these lumbering, striving figures challenge idealized notions of the gracefulness of the female form and cast women in an animalistic, almost grotesque light.

Rego, 81, who lives in Hampstead, has said: “The Ostriches couldn’t have been done if I hadn’t been the age I am. A younger woman wouldn’t know what it was like longing for things that are not gone because they’re inside one, but that are inaccessible.”

The gallery in Albemarle Street is also showing Rego’s first tapestry, a large scale work called Eagle’s Daughter (2016) which is based on the 16th century folk tale of a beautiful young girl born to a man who was raised by eagles and betrayed by an ugly wicked old woman.

It was woven by Flanders Tapestries in Belgium, and continuing the storybook theme, it is shown alongside etchings and lithographs from earlier Rego series: The Pendle Witches and Peter Pan.

Dancing Ostriches from Disney's Fantasia Dancing Ostriches from Disney's Fantasia

Born in Lisbon in 1935, Rego trained at the Slade in the 1950s and exhibited as part of The London Group alongside David Hockney and Frank Auerbach. She has gone on to exhibit worldwide and her work is held in collections around the globe.

Paula Rego runs until November 12 at Marlborough Fine Art, 6, Albemarle Street. Marlboroughlondon.com

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