Sunday, February 19, 2012


I’m trying to figure out the reason why I tend to smile and free my self in an instinctive laugh in front of Louise Bourgeois’s work, while watching Paula Rego’s paintings I find myself unsettled, with a subtle but uncomfortable feeling of repulsion.

An answer is hard to define though. There should be a point of distinction that clarifies my different reactions towards them but, if there is, it’s obviously a tricky and extremely well hidden one.
I’m approaching both of the artists now, really for the first time. Only lately I’ve become sincerely curious about their works and decided to spend some time on them, while before, although I was aware of their significance within the art world, I have sort of ignored and passed over their practices.
There are some similar leit motiv that recur in the lives of Bourgeois and Rego, some situations that could have represented a state of exception. Their inclination and the remedy chosen brought the two women to protect them selves with artistic weapons.
I have used these terms such remedy protection and weapons even though they sound to me openly Freudian, an approach which, while could be seen as fundamental in terms of life and pulsional drives comprehension, is instead marginal for an aesthetic appreciation.
At least in my opinion.
Bourgeois left France to move to USA, Rego left Portugal to live in UK.
No matter any opulence one can refer to as an economical comfort, leaving the country of origin for a new and unknown one always affects people’s lives in peculiar ways.
More over, Bourgeois was apparently traumatised by her father extra-conjugal liason, Rego lived an important period of her life without being close to her parents. She grew up with her grandmother and her fairy tales.
It’s true, through their art works the viewer can easily come to one conclusion which is the meaningful and persistent importance of childhood that constantly absorbs Bourgeois and Rego approaches towards art.
They both like to play, I believe they use a desecrating language in their works, probably the same they had and still have in life too, in order to dignify a black humour too often analysed by psychoanalysis as a replacement for something else.
I think Bourgeois and Rego love to laugh before anything else. Irony is fundamental for itself. A black humour is an essential part of style without the need to justify its use in terms of a trauma’s remedy.
I’m so astonished by the French artist’s comment on her portrait took by Mapplethorpe with a non-phallus sculpture under her arm. Just the objectively undeniable wrinkle’s appearance on her face affirms she is not a playful kid anymore.
But still, I wonder what in a kind of way obsesses me in Rego’s paintings. She probably filters the ambiguity in a subtler way than Bourgeois. The fact she observes a sort of more traditional figurative standards make the fiction less fiction and closer to reality instead.
Bourgeois’s spider or Destruction of the father installation presents them selves as already artefacts and the viewer’s affection is relieved recognizing a different and possibly cathartic level from the real traumatic experience.
Rego’s paintings are very likely not to create this step that distinguishes between an imaginative and a non-fictional fact. The viewer lives under her skin what she has in front of her eyes. It’s like adverting for real how it’s like to be in a room where so unusual actions take form and to feel the uneasiness derived from the impossibility of avoiding the undesirable.
Girl lifting her skirt to a dog by Paula Rego

Rego’s art talks about the friction between the viewer’s expectations and what she ends up to see. One doesn’t expect upper middle class women to break the un-written codes of their society and behave in unpredictable ways such for example showing a dog what the have underneath their skirts.
Rego probably plays with ambivalence more than Bourgeois does and I personally found hard to face the negative of the scaring as a life’s part in need of acceptance.

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