The Unicorn Artist
Lithograph, Edition 20/50
Signed by the artist in pencil and numbered
64cm x 88cm
Portuguese-British artist Paula Rego is a storyteller in paint, pastel, and in the etching needle. Her work always draws upon folk and fairytales, literature, and her own biography to create politically and psychologically charged, deeply unsettling tableaux. As Rego’s subject is usually about women, she explores the passing of a woman from the state of innocence to experience in this fundamentally hierarchal society. The strong overtones of eroticism in the artist's work is reminiscent of the canvases of the French-Polish artist, Balthus, who similarly painted ambiguous pre-pubescent girls.
Rego attended the Slade School of Art and was tutored by Lucian Freud, she later became a prominent member of the London Group, although she was the only woman artist in the group.
In recent years, Rego has been making exquisite lithographs. Earlier motifs from fairytales continue to appear in her work today, as she continues to expose the personal and the political in her highly narrative art.
In regards to her foray into printmaking she said: "I turn to etching, and lithography, with a sense of exuberance and relief. In printmaking you can give your imagination full-range and see the results almost immediately. So one image triggers the idea for the next one and so on."
This limited edition of The Unicorn Artist, a coloured lithograph on paper has been included in Leyden Gallery’s exhibition Creature (dis)comforts. On first sight, it seems to represent two young women engaged in a kind of folkloric and juvenile game. However, upon closer inspection the image becomes more ambiguous and uncanny. The young woman in jackboots is holding a hobby horse, while the other seated figure is putting up a board against her. There is, undoubtedly, an underlying atmosphere of sexual tension, repression and threatened violence contrary to Rego’s beautiful etching skill and the illustrative, fable-like quality of the work. The shadow, cast by the hobby horse onto the board resembles the shape of a vagina; the jackboots as a symbol of authority and power has been a recurrent element in her work. This amazing piece of work exposes how power and corruption can pervert and conquer even the most commonplace and innocent of activities.