In episode 70 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews the SON, Nick Willing, of one of the greatest living artists, his mother, PAULA REGO !!!!!!!!
[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: www.alighieri.co.uk | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]
Wow is this one of the most joyous, brilliant, electric and INSIGHTFUL episodes. Nick speaks so beautifully on his mother, her life, her art, her commitment to painting, her greatness at telling stories and twisting them on its head. A few years ago, Nick, a director and writer, made an incredible documentary, "Secrets and Stories", where he filmed and interviewed his mother over the course of a year.
Rego, now 86, is currently the subject of a MAMMOTH exhibition of her work at Tate Britain. Featuring paintings, drawings, collages and more, spanning from the 1950s up until recent years, Rego’s works have dealt with both epic and personal stories on large and small scales. Painting our deepest secrets, desires, fears, or the familiar stories we learnt in childhood – but question as adults – freedom, family dynamics, art history, and so much more, I don’t think there is a single artist whose works have captured me so much. After all, she has said: “Art is the only place you can do what you like. That’s freedom.”
Born in 1935, Rego grew up in Portugal under the military dictatorship of Salazar. She enrolled at London’s Slade School in the 50s. Already as a teenager was Rego able to look deep into people and paint expressive truths, as seen in an early portrait of her father. Returning to Portugal, she painted the bloody reality of life as a human, but most importantly, as a woman.
Through her paintings, she gave (and gives) women a voice. For the record, until 2007, women couldn't have a legal abortion (a change in law in part thanks to Rego’s propagandistic, brave, but painful images of women experiencing unsafe abortions). Rego documented life living with an unfaithful husband (her work The Dance says it all: the male protagonist’s untrustworthy gaze that catches our eyes, beautifully described by Nick), who became progressively ill in his later years, and who she cared for.
But although her works are personal to her, they speak universally, spanning time, age, cultures. They feel utterly contemporary, but also historic. They address epic themes on an epic scale. They feel Baroque, operatic, theatrical. But always so real, with Rego always bringing it back to the personal.
I hope you enjoy this episode!
Tate show! https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/paula-rego
Nick's documentary!!!! You can't miss: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7eNo6goFeg&t=1s&ab_channel=Byrnzie400
LISTEN NOW + ENJOY!!!
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
Research assistant + sound recorder: Viva Ruggi
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinnerMusic by Ben Wetherfield