Association for Art History’s Annual Conference

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Presentation of Paper:
"Paula Rego: Chaos vs order. A Dada attitude against authority in the post-War period"

Paula Rego, a Portuguese-born naturalised British artist, combined in the beginning of her artistic activity means of automatic and unconventional creativity with an ironic and violent response to the dictatorial regime that still ruled Portugal, her birth country, in the 1950s and 1960s. In other words, she reacted to the imposed order, censorship and repression with chaotic compositions populated by strange creatures or monsters that evoked children’s drawings, and loaded with cutting papers from newspapers or from her own drawings. By cutting and collaging pieces of paper on the canvases, Rego mimicked the dictatorship’s circle of violence that was in the early 1960s extended to Africa as a response to the anticolonial movements that emerged in Portuguese colonies. Rego’s work encapsulated, therefore, Portuguese historical drama, exorcising the brutality and
horror of this period directly through her creative action.
Although never claiming creative ascendency from the Dadaist movement, but recognising Max Ernst as a reference for her early work, Rego’s artistic practice reactivated Dadaist resources in order to challenge authority and social conventions and point to an alternative version of reality, more complex and even grotesque. Rego created an iconography of political resistance which was epitomised by Salazar [the Portuguese dictator] vomiting the Homeland.
This paper addresses Rego’s early political works and how they complemented Dadaist references with new aesthetic trends and British creative environment, thus proving Dada attitude to be topical and relevant in defining the shape of the ‘geometry of fear’ in Portugal and also in Britain.
Period7 Apr 2018
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational