Paula Rego: Celestinas House

12 June - 7 October 2001

One of Britain's foremost resident figurative artists, Paula Rego returned to Abbot Hall to show a major body of work including powerful new paintings and drawings, shown for the first time. Her work reveals stories which are many layered, lyrical and often disturbing and which explore the very depths of human experience.

This major exhibition came at a key moment in Paula Rego's career, as she was attracting increasing recognition from the press, critics, galleries and many collectors. The exhibition brought together a group of important recent works, including several new pieces which were displayed for the first time at Abbot Hall. A range of works, from large scale pastels and paintings to more intimate preparatory works on paper, provided an insight into the creative thought processes of this unique modern story-teller.

Paula Rego created a number of new pieces for the exhibition, including Celestina's House which represented the latest ideas and imagery in Paula's work, as well as The Interrogator's Garden and The Wide Sargasso Sea. The latter is a large drawing conveying an intricate narrative which draws on memories of her childhood in Portugal and incorporates an array of characters from Paula's past and from her imagination. As she works towards a final image, she produces sketches, drawings and watercolours in which her ideas develop and crystalise. A number of these works were included in the exhibition showing the artist's unique process of weaving stories and narratives in paint and pastel, which are multi-layered, lyrical and often disturbing.

Also in the exhibition were two major works recently produced for the National Gallery's Encounters Project. Paula Rego's impressive triptych after Hogarth was exhibited alongside another more intimate triptych that was completed as part of the project, but had not yet been exhibited. Also included were an important series of three pictures focusing on the sensitive and politically charged subject of abortion.

Paula Rego was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1935. She trained at the Slade School of Art (I 952-56) and then lived in both Britain and Portugal in the 60s and 70s before settling permanently in Britain in 1976. She has had numerous exhibitions in Europe and America including a highly successful retrospective at the Tate Gallery, Liverpool. Her work is represented in both private and public collections in Britain, Europe and America, and she has exhibited all over the world. She was recently invited to take part in a major project, Encounters, at the National Gallery in London, for which she produced a stunning triptych in response to Hogarth's Marriage a la Mode series.

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