Paula Rego: uncovering hidden truths

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Art is often viewed as a powerful method of social and political change. Paula Rego, who sadly passed away on the 8th June, blazed her own trail in this regard. Her work had a significant impact on the decision to legalise abortion in Portugal, particularly through her ‘Abortion Series’ in 1998. But how did her work prove so persuasive? Beatriz Rodrigues argues that the power of Rego’s work lies not in shock-value, but rather in its ambivalence and mystery, tapping into the conflicted and confused emotional states which trouble us all.  By the time of her death, earlier this month, Paula Rego was widely recognized for her decisive role in the renewal of figurative painting in the second half of the 20th century. The two recent retrospectives of the Portuguese-British artist in the UK (2021 – Tate Britain, London; 2019 – MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh) consolidated her image as a socially engaged artist, who addressed themes of politica…

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