I have recently been looking at the work of Paula Rego. At first, i didn’t think much of her paintings, they looked really odd and the dark colours made them look rather disturbing.
The old republican 2005
After learning more about her work and the stories behind them, I think she is remarkable! Her pieces are so powerful! Her paintings tell a story of her life and what she has been through. A use of nostalgia, by looking at scenes of her childhood and putting a story there. It is both a physic and emotional experience.
She says that if you paint pictures, it’s about whats inside of you and what comes out. We all have secrets and many of us show it in our work.
One series of paintings that stood out to me were the paintings of women having backstreet abortions.
Back then abortions were illegal in Portugal. There was a referendum to legalise it, but nobody had bothered to vote. She wanted to become involved, to make a change because they desperately needed proper clinics. So she did these explicit paintings of young girls to make people aware, because she felt people needed to know how important is was for women to have abotions legalised. She had the power to change the law.
Image Reference: https://www.abbothall.org.uk/abbot/artwork/paula-rego
Image Reference: https://uk.pinterest.com/baxte5/paula-rego/?lp=true
Paula Rego herself, had a hard life. She had back street abortions herself and men at that time didn’t care much for women. Her father suffered from depression and her mother didn’t teach her much. Over the years she had lost her innocence.
One quote i liked from Paula Rego was:
“If that person understands your work very well, they understand you really well”.
So today i watched a talk by David Polka, a street artist. I thought about his opinion on how street artists portray death and decay and i think that he has an interesting opinion and i agree with his thoughts and feelings on this subject.
He says that cities and olden buildings express decay. They speak for the passage of time and human presence. They’re inspiring with there cool textures and the way that we can relate to architecture. You can see all the processes that had happened, you can see the contrast of seeing man-made structures return to the way they were from. It opens up new questions when you see the processes happen, like overgrown plants etc.
He says that as a graffiti artist he wants to leave a mark on the world. We all do because if we don’t, we feel lifeless. Graffiti art is highly controlled visual advertising on blank walls. It makes people feel that they can give an opinion when they look at it because its not like going to the gallery, its more open and it makes people think. This is an example of the power art can give and another opinion on decay.
If you’d like to watch the video i have been referring to, you can watch it here:
Recently, i watched a talk from Bruce Mcall on nostalgia, a future that will never happen.
Bruce Mcall is a commercial artist for the New Yorker. He says that in his work, he uses something called “Retro-futurism”. Which is looking back to see how yesterday views tomorrow, which he says is always wrong.
The 1930’s in his opinion, was the peak time for that because of the depression and it was a way to get away from the present and to look at the future, which was always optimistic. They thought that technology was going to help them get through it.
A retro-future that never happened — full of flying cars, polo-playing tanks and the RMS Tyrannic, “The Biggest Thing in All the World.”
He then talks about something called “Techno archaeology”, an example of this is his poster named “The Hindenburg” which was from 1947 looking at the day all american families have them.
He goes on to talk about “Faux Nostalgia” which is the yearning for times that never happened.
Bruce Mcall says that nostalgia is the most utterly useless human emotion. I don’t totally agree but I see the point. Nostalgia if taken to extreme becomes a mild case of depression and self-deception. The past is never as great or as bad as it seems and nor will the future be as wonderful or as terrible as we can imagine.
Today I am going to discuss the two themes; power and decay. We find decay fascinating as a subject and its all around us. It brings us together. We are constantly exploring and spending money to see things that have decayed. For example The Tintern Abbey, one of the greatest monastic ruins in Wales.
There’s something that fascinates us with the past, perhaps it’s how the buildings were built compared to the modernised designs we have now. The wonderment of how something/someone that once was revered and had purpose is now cast aside and neglected for a myriad of reasons. Why and how did that rejection occur? Is abandonment always inevitable? When I look at such images I can’t help but see life and death simultaneously – what was and is. Here is a photograph of a painting held at the Tate Museum in London.
JMW Turner, Tintern Abbey: The Crossing and Chancel, Looking towards the East Window, 1794.
Picture reference: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2014/mar/03/ruin-lust-our-obsession-with-decay-in-pictures
Art is also very powerful. The human brain responds to art in different ways, Art that we find beautiful can apparently increase blood flow in a certain part of the brain by as much as 10 per cent- the equivalent to gazing at a loved one. Great art can be beautiful, but it can also be scary and dreadful. It can disarm us but also can alarm us with its embedded messages. It can also be educational, for example we don’t really think about problems of others and by global issues, like whats going on in America at the moment with Donald Trump being president. We do not feel strongly enough that we are part of a global community. Giving people information often leaves them overwhelmed and not empowered and poised for action. This is where art makes a difference. Art doesn’t show people what to do but engages you to your senses. It can make you feel which can spur thinking and action which is why at the moment there is a lot of propaganda art in America.
This poster is designed by Shepard Fairey. More information on this to be found on: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/shepard-fairey-s-inauguration-posters-may-define-political-art-in-trump-era-a7536721.html
I hope from my opinion on the power of art and decay has given you more of an understanding. Here are a few links of sites i found interesting if you’d like to read more into the subjects: