Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Another Artistic Type: Paula Rego

Following a recommendation during my recent Masters testing time period, I've started looking at the narrative illustrative work of Paula Rego. Although a bit late in the process to directly affect the series of illustrations I’ve been working on for my MA, I did find similarities and perhaps greater understanding of my own practice through her series based on Hogarth’s Marriage a-la-Mode. The following text paraphrases significantly from the excellent 'Paula Rego', by Fiona Bradley, published by Tate.

For Rego, the opportunity to produce this work in response to an invitation from the National Gallery brought together her long-standing interest in satire and her more recent research into the possibility of grotesques. Rego’s resulting triptych curtailed Hogarth’s series by three images. She managed to transpose Hogarths action to her native country, bring his cautionary tale up to date in a contemporary exploration of the manoeuvrings and strategising at work in family life, of cultural attitudes to women in society, and of the struggle between the sexes for social, political and environmental control.

Rego also made a point of re-contextualising her triptych as a ‘modern love story’ rather than a ‘modern moral subject’, albeit one that concludes in the inevitable tragedy.

Her approach shares several similarities with Hogarths: she also uses the example of one particular young couple as a metaphor for human nature and relationships. She too makes the first picture of the cycle portentous, using both her own predilection for condensing different narrative times into one painting and Hogarth’s device of pictures within pictures to jump backwards and forwards in symbolic and real time.

The significance of the triptych underpinning Rego’s homage recognises Hogarths nod to Christian iconography in his series, depicting Christs descent from the Cross in the murdered Earl. As my professional practice continues beyond my Masters, visual narrative is an area that I'm really trying to get to grips with and I intend to develop further.

Above: The Betrothal: Lessons: The Shipwreck, after 'Marriage a la Mode' by Hogarth

Below: 'Marriage a la Mode' by Hogarth consisting of:

1. The Marriage Settlement
2. The Tête à Tête
3. The Inspection
4. The Toilette
5. The Bagnio 
6. The Lady's Death

You can click the links above to see the in-depth analysis of each frame of Hogarth's series.

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