Marlborough’s line up for Frieze week – Paula Rego & Antoine Catala

Marlborough’s Frieze exhibitions are Paula Rego – From Mind to Hand, Drawings from 1980 to 2001, and Antoine Catala – Everything is Okay: Season 2.  they are must-see during Frieze week.

Marlborough Fine Art will present a solo exhibition of drawing works by Paula Rego from the 1980s-90s, demonstrating the strength of her graphic oeuvre and giving a rare insight into the drawings that underlie her practice. The sketches on show will shed light on the inception of her complex narratives and include studies for some of her most famous and iconic paintings, including her Abortion Series, lending a new understanding of her work as a whole.

To Rego, drawing is not just the fundamental starting point of any oeuvre, regardless of the media she is going to use. Drawing is part of the final work itself, it already contains the end-result; it is already art. As Degas affirmed, ‘Drawing is not what one sees but what makes others see’. Rego’s practice revolves around her need to draw, which underlies her method and remains at the core of all aspects of her work. The works selected by Marlborough Fine Art are devoted to Rego’s preparatory sketches demonstrating how essential drawing is to an understanding of her work.

The exhibition spans the last three decades of her work, and comprises approximately fifty to sixty pieces, giving rare insight into her draughtsmanship and inventiveness. The artist learnt methods of observation and representation when studyig at the Slade, as she states:

“Drawing from the model is more spontaneous than drawing from the imagination… I think if you have something to look at and try and get it, you find that all sorts of things happen”.

It is when she is drawing that her imagination comes into play and the stories unravel; as curator and artist Colin Wiggins writes, Rego’s work “is a combination of direct observation in the studio together with her imagination and those childhood memories that have stayed very much alive for her”.

Female subjects are predominant in Rego’s narratives, often extracted from popular tales, folk stories, literature and religious texts. As it often happens, the roles of mother, wife, carer, lover, sisters get enveloped in a sexual undertone, at times quite explicit, while others somehow veiled. Through these narratives, and the use of racy ambiguities, she challenges political issues, such as the legalisation of abortion, female circumcision and human bondage.

Marlborough’s exhibition coincides with the opening of a major solo show ‘The cruel stories of Paula Rego’ at the Musée de l`Orangerie, Paris which runs 17 October – 14 January 2019. There will be an illustrated catalogue with text by Frances Carey, writer and curator.

At the same time of Rego’s show, Marlborough Contemporary will present solo show of existing and new works by New York based, French artist Antoine Catala. Catala describes his practice as ‘making art that deals with changes in society’. Catala’s work, exploring emojis and text messages, testifies to the effects new communication technologies have on our society. He creates immersive, kinetic installations exploring how digital technology can manipulate our emotions and the ways in which forms of social media increasingly control, regulate and alienate us.

The artist is fascinated by communication and how humans interact, especially the ways in which we use emojis as a means of superficial reassurance and a form of pseudo-emotional currency. He is greatly influenced by Marshall McLuhan, the media theorist hailed for predicting the birth of the internet with his model of the futuristic ‘Global Village’. He also warned of the potential dangers involved, such as the manipulation of our senses for the benefit of private bodies and how our world view may come to be altered – consider the recent “Fake News” scandal. In his works, Catala reflects how communication is almost entirely corporation driven and is shaped and owned by the platforms we use. In the face of this increasingly financial society, emojis become a refuge for individualism.

Text messages allow us to communicate as quickly as we speak. By now, they have almost completely substituted in-person, physical communication. They enable multiple conversations at once, bridge geographical distance and fit around our modern, fragmented lives, reflecting our easily distracted minds. Catala explores how this minimal version of interpersonal communication can lead to misunderstanding, and in a time lapse between messages, discomfort can easily grow. This is where emojis come in – symbols to diffuse tension and state the intended “mood” of the message as a substitution of vocal intonation. Hence the exhibition’s mantra: Everything is OKAY.

The show has the feel of a haunted house, driven by a loop of videos and songs as an opera in multiple acts. It is centred around a narrative and transforms the gallery space into an uncanny domestic setting. ‘Flat Sitcom’ constitutes two vertical monitors facing each other, set vertically to mimic smartphone screens. Both show a protagonist, their texts to each other appearing at the bottom of the screens playing out various disturbing ‘episodes’. The suspense is relieved by a recurring theme song which is played between each episode, at which point other emoji objects in the room – for example wall panels, socks, t-shirts and plastic bags – animate and join in.

Paula Rego – From Mind to Hand, Drawings from 1980 to 2001. Marlborough Fine Art, London. 12th September – 27th October 2018

Antoine Catala – Everything is OKAY: Season 2Marlborough Contemporary, London. 12th September  – 13th October 2018

mfa@marlboroughfineart.com / info@marlboroughcontemporary.com

Images: copyright Paula Rego, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art & copyright Joerg Lohse, courtesy 47 Canal

About Irene Machetti

Whenever there is an exhibition opening, expect to find me there, with a glass of wine in one hand, and my phone on the other, to take pictures and record my emotions. The rest of my life is spent studying art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and, especially, baking cakes and lasagne for my loved ones.