Tag Archive for: retrospective

Em todas as ruas te encontro – On every street I encounter you’
(from: Pena Capital, 1957)

To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Mário Cesariny de Vasconcelos (1923-2006), the country will mark a year of reflection on the work and life of its most famous surrealist poet, activist, and painter.

Last month the festivities reached the capital with a major exhibition O Castelo Surrealista’ (the surrealist castle) at the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) – until the 18th of February. Some new publications are also in the pipeline as well as a series of lectures, concerts, and performances throughout the country.

At a very young age, Mário Cesariny learned chiseling to continue his father’s trade, goldsmithing. He didn’t like the subject and entered the Lisbon Conservatory (piano major). During the war, he was shown surrealist magazines from Paris by friends and became captivated by those anomalous texts and images.

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, he was initially interested in neo-realism, a movement dominated by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), that positioned itself as a viable alternative to the official art of the fascist Estado Novo (New State) of Salazar. But he left the movement soon after because of its fidelity to the representation of people in paintings and its stylistic dictates, including the obligatory use of figuration.    

In 1947, he got the chance to spend some time in Paris, where he visited the International Exhibition of Surrealism organized to reinvigorate the surrealist movement that had been on the verge of disappearing during the war. There he met André Breton, the founder and leader of the French surrealists, and later that year founded the Portuguese Surrealist group (Os Surrealistas).

In 1950, his debut poetry collection ‘Corpo visível’ (visible body) was published outside the censorship of Salazar’s dictatorship. He lived in London and Paris, sometimes for longer periods, to be free of the intrusiveness of the PIDE (secret police) as they kept an eye on him because of his homosexuality and political ideas.

‘Surrealism is a way of transforming life and the world’, he used to say.
‘It is one of the two great revolutions of the 20th century, the other is Lenin’s.’

Only in 1961, when the repressive regime had somewhat softened, his poems were published by an established publisher in Portugal. In 1974 – when the Carnation Revolution liberated the country from the fascist terror – he participated in the Poetry International festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands after which all his work was published and he was able to make trips to Spain, England, the US, and Mexico.

Cesariny was first and foremost a great poet. Public recognition for his pictorial work came later with the EDP Grand Prize for painting in 2002. That same year, a major retrospective exhibition of his paintings and other visual work was held in several Portuguese museums and an oeuvre catalog was published.
But he also was an excellent translator of poetry, translating work from Rimbaud, Novalis, and Breytenbach.

Happy Holidays         Boas Festas                (pic Público/Zucamag)

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