The Vivian Girls as Windmills
The Vivian Girls as Windmills forms part of Paula Rego’s series of paintings entitled Vivian Girls, dated 1984, and inspired by The Realms of the Unreal, by Henry Darger. This narrative develops around seven princesses, daughters of Robert Vivian, enslaved and tortured by soldiers. Darger was part of the phenomenon known as Outsider Art or Art Brut, and Paula Rego first came into contact with the work of the North American artist in 1979, when she visited the Outsiders exhibition in the Hayward Gallery, in London. Here, one of the curators of this exhibition, Victor Musgrave, showed her this story by the unknown artist.
As the artist herself noted, the Vivian Girls were based on Darger’s girls, but have nothing to do with his stories. However, the various volumes that make up The Realms correspond to literary fantasies, fairy tales, much like the universe presented by Rego: a universe of fear personified on canvas. In this sense, contact with the work of French artist Jean Dubuffet (in 1959) fostered her interest in finding a way to create art that provoked the invention of parallel worlds, the metamorphosis of the human body, related more to a mental and psychological concept, distanced from the artistic conventions of art schools, museums and galleries.
Abandoning the process of collage of previously sketched drawings, Rego moved on to draw with acrylic on paper, as is the case with The Vivian Girls as Windmills. This painting offers a possible narrative or narratives, if we keep in mind the considerable number of characters in its composition and the anarchic distribution of the brightly coloured figures. There is no order on the painted surface, even though it is completely covered. Paula Rego presents the windmills in the form of girls, who dance, overlapping and wrapping around each other. The windmills form the setting of this Rego-esque universe, in which the figures, terrified in their theatrical positions, perform in the face of an atypical time and space.
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