On the 8th of June 2022, the Portuguese-British visual artist Paula Rego passed away at the age of eighty-seven. Her work, which ranged across materials and media was bold, subversive, and unflinching. Playful too, in its wry take on folklore and fairy tale, and in its darkly humorous treatment of its subjects. There was always the hint, contained in a furtive glance, a physical gesture, the appearance of a surprising object or animal, of a rich inner life just beyond the frame. Rego’s work, so often inspired by literary and cultural tales, contained its own narrative drive. She did not simply make art, she ‘made images out of stories’ (Marina Warner) and then created stories in her own right.
No wonder, then, that Rego was such an influential figure in the literary world. In the hours and days after her death was announced, poetry Twitter was awash with tributes. My own timeline was transformed into a gallery of her paintings, as poets tried to articulate the creative force that her work had exerted upon their writing. Indeed, Rego’s artistry feels innately linked to British poetry, not least because of her partnership with the poet Antony Rudolf, who appears in many of her works, and who frequently features ‘Paula’ in his own writing. (Rudolf is in the process of completing the final instalment of his series of memoirs, In the Picture: Office Hours at the Studio of Paula Rego.) But there are also numerous poems, dotted around literary journals, pamphlets, and collections, dedicated to specific ...
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