Michael Prodger reviews the recent exhibition, Paula Rego: The Last King of Portugal and Other Stories at Marlborough Fine Art, London.
Prodger writes that "Rego’s pictures... contain real people and an assortment of mannequins – strange creatures made from pillows, stuffed tights and old clothes – as well as plaster saints, plastic Virgins and toy animals dressed like dolls. This cast of artist’s extras lives in her studio and, along with a couple of favourite models, is pressed into service again and again to people her pictorial stories... Her mises en scène are sealed and the viewer is never invited to step beyond the picture plane. Whatever dark play unfolds in them – and it is rarely clear exactly what that might be – is between her mute figures alone... What the potency of Rego’s subject matter tends to obscure is her craft. The surfaces of the pictures are as rich and complex as the scenes. She uses pastel in both light scourings and patches of heavy impasto, tightening and loosening with pressure and overlays of colour."