Dame Paula Rego DBE

“It was an exhibition at the beginning of the Eighties that made her conspicuous. It was comic and disturbing; a frightening sequence of paintings of delinquent monkeys, horribly human in its implications.”

“Her figures occupy one’s mind as a troubled extended family might. She explores strained, sometimes incestuous, relationships and her painted children share an unerving maturity. She appears like them – in a topsy-turvy way – a child-like grown up. But there is nothing innocent about her mind. She sees children as knowing without knowing, she beleives they are ‘not boring, not tedious in any way; they don’t impose. They know about things, they certainly know fear and don’t pretend they don’t.’

“Fear animates Rego’s paintings; sometimes, I suggest, there is even a kind of glee in it. She disagrees. ‘I think the fear comes in the act of doing the picture, in the physical act of painting. I am terrified it won’t come off.’ The painting begins in adrenaline: ‘When you have an idea for a picture, you’re very, very excited. You don’t want to cry or laugh but you want to get it down. You get someone to sit – it is a question of arrangement.’ ”

Kate Kellaway