Everyone hides things, at home, at work. I hide in what I paint.’

The Portugal-born, London-based Paula Rego is in vogue. Having finished last year a monograph at the L’ Orangery in Paris and a solo exhibition at the new MK Gallery in Milton Keynes (UK), she shows contemporary art as from the 4th of May at the transnational exhibition Diversity United, together with 90 artists from 34 countries.

This summer, a large, comprehensive retrospective is scheduled for Tate, Britain (June 16 -October 24). The exhibition in London featuring over 100 pieces – including collage, paintings, etchings, pastels, and sculptures – will highlight the nature of her work and the socio-political context in which it is rooted.

Since the 1950s Paula Rego has played a key role in redefining figurative art. An uncompromising artist of extraordinary imaginative power, who revolutionised the way in which women are represented.

Rego – who was born in 1935 – is known for her sinister lexicon, which often draws on dark folk tales, and stars ruthless female agents devoid of feat or meekness.

Although her subjects are physically vulnerable – like in the Abortion Pastels – it’s clear that she is
not painting victims.

Rego is vehemently pro-choice, and has often spoken of the desperate fishermen’s wives, mothers already several times over, who’d turn up at the house she shared with her husband – when they were living in the Portuguese coastal village of Ericeira in the 60s – begging for money for backstreet abortions.

Herself with a childhood full of loneliness. The feeling of abandonment – while her parents lived in England, she stayed with her parental grandparents in Portugal until she was three years old. The close relationship with her father – ‘he taught me to think for myself, to do what I wanted’ – and the distance with her mother – ‘I don’t think I ever had a worthwhile conversation with her’.

The tough years in London at the Slade School of Fine Art (1952-1956), where fantasy wasn’t given space. The troubled love story with her husband – the English painter Vic Willing – she admired, a married man seven years her age. Infidelities. The provoked abortions in Soho before the birth of her three children. The depression she already felt, since she was a child.

The loss of her family fortune after the Carnation Revolution – 25th of April, 1974 – forced her to sell her grandparents’ farm in Ericeira. The importance of her work for her and the late recognition of it. The husband’s chronic illness – for years bedridden with multiple sclerosis – and his death in 1988, after an unsuccessful suicide attempt a year before.

Paula Rego, artist, wife, and mother, in that order.

Stay healthy                                    Fique saudável   

Cascais, Portugal

‘Eat wild, mostly small fish, preferably local’

Seafood is the cornerstone of the Portuguese kitchen. There are no people in Europe who eat as much seafood as the Portuguese and at the global level, only Japan and Iceland consume more fish. More than half of the fish consumed in Portugal comes from abroad.

The bigger the fish and the longer it lives, the more mercury it will accumulate, increasing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to heavy metals, overfishing is a cause of great concern.

Most tuna (atum) species are severely over-fished and all tuna species contain mercury. Albacore tuna is the best alternative choice.

Scabbardfish (peixe espada) with its long life cycle, slow growth, and low productive rate inhabit the deep waters off mainland Portugal, Madeira, and the Azores. They contain high levels of mercury. Best alternatives are Sea bream (Sargo or Dourada).

Octopus (polvo) is with its 500.000 neurons probably the most intelligent spineless creature in the sea. Skin color depends on their habitat and mood. They feed on crustaceans, particularly crabs. Some might contain mercury. Alternatives are Cuttlefish or Squid.

Cod (bacalhau) – industrially caught in the cold waters of the Baltic and Northern Atlantic – is the nation’s favorite dish. Their status is vulnerable through overfishing. Alternatives are Seabream or Dourada.

Although sardines (sardinhas) are synonymous with Portugal, the fish is not as plentiful as it might seem. In recent years the fishery has completely collapsed through overfishing. The best alternative is Mackerel.

Shrimp (camarão) are caught on industrial ships to an unsustainable scale bringing populations to the brink of collapse. Over 80% of the giant Mozambique shrimp are exported to the EU – mainly to Spain and Portugal – causing vast ecological destruction in the Indian ocean. The best alternative is Clams.

Razor clams (lingueirão) are in sharp decline by trawlers that rake the sands mechanically to the extent that they all have been whipped out locally. Best alternative is Percebes.

Sea bream (sargo) – the king of the Alentejo coast – is usually line-caught and currently not in decline. They have strong teeth to feed upon mollusks.

Golden sea bream (dourada) tends to be relatively resistant to overfishing but is usually produced by aquaculture in the Mediterranean sea in large tanks with negative environmental impacts (i.e. seawater pollution through antibiotics and chemicals).

Mackerel (cavala) is a great alternative to sardines. Full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and low in cholesterol. They have a healthy future population predicted.

Brown crab (sapateira) is imported to Portugal from waters surrounding the UK, Ireland, and northwestern France.

Clams (amêijoas) – found in the Atlantic and the Azores – feed on micro-algae. They are the main bivalve species produced through aquaculture in Portugal.

Goose-neck barnacles (percebes) are strange-looking creatures living on intertidal rocks off the Algarve, where they are hand-picked by divers. It is forbidden to capture them from October to April.

Oysters (ostra) are largely produced by aquaculture along the Portuguese coast. They are great for the local ecosystem as they are filter-feeders cleaning the water.

Cuttlefish (choco) has 8 arms and 2 tentacles like squid but have an internal skeletal structure, the cuttlebone. The catch method, by trap or hook and line, is a very low impact fishing method but they are also caught as by-catch.

Squid (lula) supply has been increasing in recent years possibly as a result of the declining fish populations and ecosystem changes.

Stay healthy                Fique saudável            (pic Kate Findlay-Shirras)