Dame Paula Rego explores old age and hidden stories in 'The Forgotten' exhibition

Portrait of Paula Rego, 2021

Portrait of Paula Rego, 2021 - Credit: Nick Willing

Following her major retrospective at The Tate this year, Highgate artist Dame Paula Rego has a new show opening in Islington.

The Forgotten Exhibition at Victoria Miro features significant works, mostly from the past 20 years, including pieces that are rarely shown.

With themes such as mental health and old age, the show takes over the gallery's Wharf Road spaces from November 19.

La Marafona, 2005 Pastel on paper on aluminium

La Marafona, 2005 Pastel on paper on aluminium - Credit: Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

Pieces such as La Marafona 2005 are inspired by the 86-year-old's childhood in Portugal and her beloved father's depression, which she believes she inherited.

It is displayed alongside Rego's 2007 Depression Series of large-scale pastels which explores her own debilitating episode, and attempt to draw her way out of it. Her identification with her father's suffering and its legacy are explored in other works, while another theme of mothers and daughters features in pieces such as Nursing which depicts maternal ambivalence.

Reading the Divine Comedy by Dante, 2005 Pastel on paper on aluminium by Paula Rego

Reading the Divine Comedy by Dante, 2005 Pastel on paper on aluminium by Paula Rego - Credit: Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

Rego studied at The Slade School of Fine Art in the 1950s where she met husband Victor Willing. The couple had three children and lived in Portugal, then Albert Street, Camden Town before his death in 1988. In recent decades she has lived in Highgate with a studio in Kentish Town.

Spanning six decades, her work has drawn on both fairy tales from her childhood and her personal life including her husband's extra-marital affairs and stigmas around motherhood and abortion.

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In works which often feature versions of herself, she has brought psychological and imaginative insight to the stories we suppress, conceal, or tell ourselves in private.

Self-portrait III 2017 Pastel on Paper by Paula Rego

Self-portrait III 2017 Pastel on Paper by Paula Rego is on show at Victoria Miro Gallery in Wharf Road, Islington - Credit: Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

A series of unflinching works made in 2017 after she fell and badly injured her face are a rare example of direct self-portraits. They show her bruised and out of shape, not because she wanted to express the pain, but because the physical changes gave her a reason to draw herself.

As she says: "I didn’t like the fall… but the self-portraits I liked doing. I had something to show."

The Tate's Paula Rego's retrospective moves to The Hague later this month but closer to home Paula Rego: The Forgotten Exhibition runs November 19 until January 22, 2022 at Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road, London N1.


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