Monday, April 12, 2021

Paula Rego's 'The Aunt (Nada)

The Prompt: Tía Pelos by Juli Delgado Lopera

In this installment of The Prompt, Juli Delgado Lopera takes Paula Rego's 'The Aunt (Nada)' back to its literary origins.

In this installment of The Prompt, Juli Delgado Lopera takes Paula Rego's 'The Aunt (Nada)' back to its literary origins.

Paula RegoThe Aunt (Nada) (detail), 2006. Estimate £800,000 — 1,200,000. 

Paula Rego has frequently revisited the literary and cultural past, fusing her aesthetic vision with rich memories. Her work, The Aunt (Nada), draws on a scene from Nada, an acclaimed 1945 novel by Carmen Laforet that Rego read in the 2000s. In this installment of our ongoing series, The Prompt, Juli Delgado Lopera takes Rego's The Aunt (Nada) back to its literary origins. Delgado Lopera considers both the artwork and Nada, in a haunting fiction response to two masterpieces, created decades apart.


Written by Juli Delgado Lopera


Mira niña—the baldness really took on when the second carajito kid died and by then people were already calling her La Pelona a.k.a Tía Pelos. She wouldn’t eat, not even the rosconcitos y arepitas she so much loved. Every day I’d cook the huevitos and chocolate like clockwork, arriving right at onces time, ready for tea. Tía venga, I’d say, but she wouldn’t move from the window. Mummified. Playing the same Chavela Vargas CD on a loop. Only two yellowing fingers trembling, forever holding a stick of Marlboro ashes that never dropped. Draped in her sadness. A little too much that darkness. A layer of grey film imposing itself on the entire apartment. The sofa, the blue carpet we brought from Cartagena, even the painting of abuela all seem to crumble every time Tía Pelos exhaled. Pues eventually I found a drawer in her closet bursting with ants and roaches and when I opened it what do you think I found? Stale arepas now fungi. Eggs oozing green. A feast for the cockroaches I tried so hard to kill every day. A whole ecosystem of tristeza growing there. She hid it in the bottom drawer exactly like she hid her pain. Closed shut tight and stinky. A pain that reeked. A sadness that emanated an odor of puss soil gasoline. A sadness that had crawled parasitic into her bones, making it impossible for her to stand up. When I confronted her about it you know what she said? Ay mija, let the roaches be. Imagínate tú. This is the same woman who sprayed Lysol on her shoes upon entering the house, stacking Fabuloso and Pine Sol like bread. Pero—óyeme—it doesn’t end there. Homegirl didn’t want the room cleaned. Her exact words: No cleaning, stop with the pendejada. Waving me off. The layering grime comforting. The maggots a newly found company. The dust and spiders her new BFFs.

I would have very much appreciated some wailing, some screaming, some crucifix waving. Like she used to. When the husband died Tía Pelos broke an entire room in the apartment. Her very own furniture massacre. She sent me to fetch a couple of matronas, paid them a few pesos, handed them a hammer and machete and with those thin lips pointed to the husband’s room clapping twice. Off the women went to destroy the remnants of Tío. I will forever remember the disconcerting look in their eyes like who is this bitch? But, also, the opportunity. Who doesn’t want to machete a room of old chairs, books, and liquor? Who doesn’t want all the rage of life to spill and destroy? I was jealous of the women. I wanted to join them, but Tía stopped me short. You’re too young move aside, she said. As if. When the banging wasn’t enough, she too joined the violent pachanga of destruction. See here: Big-boned Tía in full black grief realness remangándose, pulling up her black lace skirt, lifting the full-body mirror smashing it against the wall. Bam! bam! Shimmering silver raining. A cascade of sharp glitter leaving thin traces of blood on her ankles. And always a cigarette dangling off her lips, stained dark red at the edges.

Paula RegoThe Aunt (Nada) (detail), 2006. Estimate £800,000 — 1,200,000.

Y es que you did not know Tía Pelos. Before The Darkness entered our lives the son y ton that was that ass meaneándolo, shimming shoulders to the latest merengue de moda. The matrona and head bitch of our household. Directing the maids and the rest of the matriarchy crew. Pointing with the finger, with the mouth. Everyone forced to bow to the power of her tongue and sass. A real mother of the house that cut every mosquita muerta with a stare. Tía didn’t even need to say a word to make shit happen around here: it was all in her eyes. Bam! The caterpillar eyebrows. Bam! The glaring. Bam! The soft closing of the lids when she just about had it with you, you lazy sinvergüenza. The impeccable casita de cristal that was this apartment. This was all before everyone died— the husband, the first kid, the second kid— before the sadness started clinging to her like a second skin making everyone around us disappear and now it is Tía Pelos and yours truly perched on this miserable corner apartment like forgotten porcelain dolls. The real marking of time is her hair. The only marking of time is her hair. We’re in a circular loop of pelos.

In her youth Tía Pelos wore a mane of curls braided to the side. Most of the photographs have been burned by her fury, teared apart by the roaring darkness that every few years explodes with yet another tragedy that pushes Tía into a deeper abysm of grief, but I managed to save one or two. In black and white she parades herself down a busy street, leather gloves in each hand, purple heels, a puff of hair surely soaked in hairspray overtaking half of the picture frame. A true señorita.

When the morgue called about the first kid she almost swallowed her tongue. After a few months small moons appeared on her head. When the second kid died, I fed her a punta de Ensure for an entire year. Vanilla Ensure, Chocolate Ensure. Never strawberry. It was in the cans of Ensure that I first found clumps of hair tangled in the cap. Mi Dios. By then Tía was a bird, hair falling off her like feathers. See here: a large dark wingless pájaro making no attempt to fly.

So here we are Tía y yo, yo y Tía. Here we are dragging the mano peluda that is the past, swallowed in its unforgiving baldness. A past that grows nothing, a past shinny and empty like the moon. From time to time I hear a loud thump! Thump! and when I run there she is fainted on the floor, a small dark halo of hair like a saint. So with the usual dread I pull the cotton balls and alcohol I carry with me and after she comes to herself the first thing she says is, oh it’s you como tienes ese pelo de seco y feo. And what I want to do is swing the bottle of Lysol at her. Yes my own hair is dry and ugly. We are both dry and ugly. We are plucked from a story. We’ve never existed. We are part of someone’s imagination. Conjured by a dark pen. I write so we may not be forgotten. I write so the NADA, the terrifying white space that salutes my every morning, doesn’t swallow me whole.


Juli Delgado Lopera is the author of The New York Times acclaimed novel Fiebre Tropical (Feminist Press 2020), a finalist of the 2020 Kirkus Prize in Fiction and the 2021 Aspen Literary Prize. They are also the recipient of numerous fellowships and residencies, and the author of Quiéreme (Nomadic Press 2017) and ¡Cuéntamelo! (Aunt Lute 2017) an illustrated bilingual collection of oral histories by LGBT Latinx immigrants which won a 2018 Lambda Literary Award and a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award. 



Discover More from 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale >

Paula Rego ‘The Aunt (Nada)’ | London | Spring 2021

In ‘The Aunt (Nada)’ from 2006, Paula Rego expresses her propensity to utilise fiction to unveil personal truths in this most disquieting of images. Painted from life but using mannequins instead of life models, Rego’s work and process make the perfect meeting place for the real and the uncanny.


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Günther Förg @ Phillips

  • Overview

    'The objective is not so much to merely apply a coat of paint but rather to avoid an artistic handwriting in the sense of artistic mannerism.' —Günther FörgIn Untitled, a flurry of colourful strokes motions upwards and downwards on a formidable scale, forming a landscape replete with chromatic lyricism. At once structured and loose, free-flowing and meticulously constructed, the painting belongs to Günther Förg’s celebrated series of Spot Paintings, carried out between 2007 and 2009. The lattice of the grids that Förg had superimposed in his earlier series of Grid and Window Paintings has dissolved in the present work, leaving instead parcels of brushstrokes. With its ‘thoroughly unique’ writing, Untitled is simultaneously abstract and systemic, with areas of colour appearing to delineate a coded system proper to the artist’s own logic. ‘I believe that he goes about the selection of colours in an instinctive and impulsive manner; that is to say, that he relies on his natural dialect’, writes Rudi Fuchs. ‘The colours in Förg’s paintings have stared at me for years, while I remained unable to pinpoint them’.1 Having once resided in the esteemed collection of Mikael Andersen, Untitled is a wonderful testament to Förg’s relationship with the Danish gallerist and collector. Notably, Andersen’s deep commitment to the artists he supported materialised in the physical space of his Studio House, designed by Henning Larsen in Vejby Strand, where painters like Shara Hughes, Eddie Martinez, Tom Anholt and Förg himself resided and worked during the course of several summers.


    Gunther Forg in his studio with friend.
    Günther Förg with Mikael Andersen at Andersen’s Studio House in Vejby, Denmark. Courtesy of Mikael Andersen.


    Colour, Materiality, and Space


    While Förg has clearly resisted categorisation throughout his career, his work has always been thematically consistent, delving into the intricacies of colour, materiality, and space. His initial painterly experiments were occupied with stringent black monochrome works, building upon Kasimir Malevich’s investigation of the black square. Later, he would veer towards an investigation of colour and the physicality of lead in his eponymous Lead Paintings, and subsequently deploy his Window and Grid Paintings, which portended the present work’s gestural hatching forms. His Spot Paintings, exploring these amalgamated notions, are mature formulations of his conceptual and intellectual rigour. They evidence a new modus operandi, whereby Förg’s fascination with pure abstraction becomes more animated and vibrant, and a joy of painting finally takes over. In these works, the white primer remains visible beneath the composition’s surface, shining through the exuberant passages of paint that overlap it. While the coloured scribbles recall Jasper Johns’ gestural hatchings in Map, 1961, Förg’s manipulation of light is redolent of many of Paul Klee’s paintings which seem to produce a comparable luminescence. Describing this lifelong dedication to the theme of colour, Lloyd Wise wrote that Förg’s was a career ‘unencumbered by the twin deadweights of irony and melancholy and filled with a serious and sustained (though never fully credulous) commitment to the twentieth century’s endlessly generative legacy’.2 Capturing the endless possibilities of mingling shades, Untitled bears witness to this varied experimentation.


    Jasper Johns, Map, 1961, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: Scala, Florence. © Jasper Johns/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2021

    Painting the Sublime

    'Günther Förg is not an abstract painter; he is a romantic expressionist, the language of forms laconically borrowed, the colours singing ponderously, like a bronze church bell.' —Rudi FuchsWhile many of his contemporaries, especially in Germany—not least his friend Martin Kippenberger—would create wry, ironic and often anarchic assaults of the art of the past, Förg’s relationship was less critical. ‘Retrospectively, the reason for the continued importance of Förg’s oeuvre becomes clear,’ Andreas Schlaegel would explain in 2011, only a few years after Untitled was painted. ‘The evolution of his direct, subjective engagement with the aesthetic of the sublime — conducted without fear of stereotypical taboos — oscillates between appropriation and homage, yet Förg does so without any ironic quotations or other such cheap distancing techniques. Instead, he throws mythical ballast overboard and appropriates picture-making strategies in a way that makes them look new’.3 With a seemingly visceral tactility, Untitled conveys a novel form of materiality, at once composed and restless, layered like an architectural drawing and unknowably weightless. As such, it lives as a testament to Albert Oehlen’s belief that Förg ‘creates sublime works from something that is already sublime’.4


    Günther Förg in Mikael Andersen's Studio House, Vejby Strand. Courtesy Mikael Andersen Gallery.
    Günther Förg with his Lead Paintings at Mikael Andersen’s Studio House in Vejby, Denmark. Courtesy of Mikael Andersen.


    Mikael Andersen in Conversation with Kirsten MacDonald, Regional Director, Scandinavia


    Kirsten MacDonald: What makes you feel particularly drawn to Förg's Spot Paintings?


    Mikael Andersen: When I turned 50, I held a big vernissage at my gallery which had a number of Förg’s paintings on display. When the works arrived, it was as if spring had come inside the space, filling it with colourful paint. In my view, Förg’s Spot Paintings have looked at the entire history of art — from Philip Guston to Munch and Rothko — and transformed it into a singular expression, undoubtedly his own.


    KM: You have a beautiful space in Denmark — Studio House, designed by Henning Larsen in Vejby Strand— which in the summer hosts artists to work in residence. When did you open Studio House and how did that project come about?


    MA: The studio is like my child. My husband and I do not have children, so we decided to build this project. We bought the plot next to our holiday home, and when I worked with Förg on the Nordea project in 1998, I was also collaborating with the architect Henning Larsen. I was very inspired by his work and asked him to design the studio. Förg and Henning Larsen were also inspired by each other as Förg's early photographs resonated deeply with the structure and geometry of architecture.


    KM: How did Günther Förg come to work at Studio House? At what time was he there, and which series was he working on?


    MA: Förg’s first time at Studio House was in 2000. At the time, he was working on his Lead Paintings. ‘I’m an alchemist: I make gold out of lead’, he would say!


    KM: Which other artists worked at Studio House?


    MA: Shara Hughes, Eddie Martinez, Tom Anholt, among others.


    KM: In the tradition of your Berlin space in Prenzlauer Berg, which accommodated your gallery, your home but also a private residence and studio between 2007 and 2014, Studio House incorporates life and creation, featuring both a home and a space for summer residences. Do you believe that when it comes to art, more so than in other professions, work and life go hand in hand?


    MA: Yes, if you are there for the sake of art!


    KM: Finally, if you had one thing to say about the present work, Untitled, what would it be?


    MA: This work shows the dawn of Förg's Spot Paintings. His hand is loose, he has turned away from the grid. The sense of colour is outstanding.


    1 Rudi Fuchs, Günther Förg, exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 1995, p. 45.
    2 Lloyd Wise, ‘Günther Förg: A Fragile Beauty’, Artforum, May 2018, online.
    3 Andreas Schlaegel, quoted in Bruce Weber, ‘Günther Förg, German Artist who Made Modernism his Theme, Dies at 61’, The New York Times, 18 December 2013, online.
    4 Albert Oehlen quoted in Andreas Schlaegl, ‘Günther Förg: Galerie Max Hetzler’, Frieze, Spring 2012, online.

    • Description

      View our Conditions of Sale.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Mikael Andersen, Copenhagen
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010

    • Exhibited

      Copenhagen, Galerie Mikael Andersen, Günther Förg - Works 1998-2017, 13 March - 3 June 2020




signed and dated 'Förg 07' upper right
acrylic on canvas
200.3 x 190.6 cm (78 7/8 x 75 in.)
Painted in 2007, this work is recorded in the archive of Günther Förg as no. WVF.07.B.0008.

We thank Mr Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Förg for the information he has kindly provided on this work.

Full Cataloguing

£380,000 - 450,000 ‡ ♠

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Portugal Eases COVID-19 Lockdown


'Time to Move Forward': Portugal Eases COVID-19 Lockdown



LISBON (Reuters) - Pedro Costa's eyes sparkled with joy as Portugal on Monday entered the second phase of easing its COVID-19 lockdown, allowing him to at last welcome back loyal customers to his tiny coffee kiosk in the heart of Lisbon.

"This lockdown was more painful but it is positive we are reopening," said the 30-year-old. "It's the best day: the restart. It's time to move forward and I hope we will not need to take a step back."

Portugal imposed a lockdown in January to control what was then the world's worst COVID-19 surge, but strict rules have been gradually relaxed since March 15, when hair salons, bookshops and schools for younger pupils reopened.

On Monday, cafe and restaurant terraces, museums, non-food markets and fairs, small shops, middle schools and gyms were allowed to open their doors.

At Lisbon's Lemonfit gym, coordinator Joana Silva, 33, was delighted to help people get back in shape after more than two months of lockdown.

"The impact the coronavirus had on gyms was devastating," Silva said, as the first to return trained behind her. "We are still assessing it but it was undoubtedly disastrous, not only on a financial level but also physical and psychological."

Gym-lover Iolanda, who used to go to the Lemonfit gym five times a week, could not agree more.

"It was my routine and all of a sudden that routine ended and we were stuck home so it wasn't easy," she said.

Portugal has suffered 823,355 cases and 16,879 deaths, but infection rates have slowed.

If the situation continues to improve, cinemas, shopping malls, restaurants' indoor spaces and other non-essential businesses will reopen in two weeks' time.

Parents were also happy to see their children return to classes.

"It's a relief because online classes are not easy for them," said 35-year-old Vania Azevedo standing outside a Lisbon school with two of her kids. "It has been stressful."

(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Barbara Lewis)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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