Dog Woman

Paula Rego (1935 – 2022) came my way during my graduation from the Minerva Academy and I immediately felt a connection with her work. At the time, I was particularly taken with the ‘Dog Woman’ series, in which a woman almost literally becomes a dog with her typical dog-like postures.

Rego was moved by a (fictional) story about a woman who lives in a house surrounded by sand dunes, with only animals for company. Driven mad by loneliness and a persistent raging storm that sounds like the sound of screaming children to her ears, the woman goes down on all fours and devours the animals. This lurid tale of loneliness, frustration and violence prompted Rego to create ‘Dog Woman’.

I read that Rego regarded ‘Dog Woman’ as a helping spirit. For her, drawing and painting Dog Woman was like a shamanic act, as if she wanted to incant or conjure something with it. It is possible that the creation of this series also had something to do with her personal situation at the time. Rego started the series in a period when her husband was terminally ill, which suggests that she could use a helping spirit at that time. ‘Dog Woman’ possibly expressed her love for her husband, which was unconditional as a dog’s love can be.

Rego did not see being a ‘Dog Woman’ as oppressive, but rather as a strength, because being animalistic was good in her experience. Rego said that with her work she wanted to show the strength of women.
For her, ‘Dog Woman’ was mainly about physical sensation, eating, growling and all activities that are connected with sensory. Rego found the woman depicted as a dog very credible, and I share that opinion. I find ‘Dog Woman’ raw, horrifying, inappropriate and beautiful at the same time. Rego shows the woman shamelessly in her animal power.

She leaves behind an impressive oeuvre of paintings, drawings and etchings.

Geertje Geertsma, 2015, Final exam thesis ‘Wording’ (‘Becoming’).
Fiona Bradly, 2002, Paula Rego, Tate Publishing
www.saatchigallery.com/artists/paula_rego.htm
René ten Bos 2008, The ingenious animal

Wonder

As I searched for words to express an undermining apocalyptic feeling that regularly creeps up on me, I was interrupted, what timing, by Jehovah’s at the door asking me, “How can you be sure that all the misery in the world is not God’s punishment?”

And yet, very close by, in the woods, in the park, and even in my small town garden, mushrooms grow. They are as real and tangible as it gets. Thus I focus on that which exists within my field of vision, a biodiversity in all its glory and with the most fantastic manifestations that exist. I perceive the wonder and there is love.

Top Floor, Room 40.

Being so in love that it feels like everything is taken as one organism through the senses. Eating together as one, listening to music, dancing, beholding the world and being touched. So does it matter where we are?

Yes.

Once I was in Paris with my fresh lover to celebrate life. In Musée d’Orsay he sat down … waiting for me. Art turned out not to fascinate him much after all and so ‘our’ eyes became his eyes again and my eyes became mine again. I saw just about everything there was to see in the Musée d’Orsay, while he sat impassively, patiently and somewhat stoically, waiting.

At the very top, in room 40, I met Odilon Redon and my love shifted. Through Redon’s eyes I saw the beauty of the sea, we shared our fascinations and we understood without needing words that Venus must have been born from a shell and we laughed together about this … we forgot the time.

I would still want to mention that the love for Redon proved more enduring than the other one. GG

 

Clockwise or anti-clockwise?

There is a shell named Conus Marmoreus that became famous because Rembrandt etched a still life of it. Since then, the shell has been known as the Rembrandt shell. The Rembrandt shell was once displayed in Rembrandt’s Kunstcaemer among other exotic collectibles.

Suppose you want to reproduce this shell just like Rembrandt, or in other words mimic Rembrandt’s idea. Then you buy a Rembrandt shell because you want to know what the shell looks like in real life. You want to understand the shell.

At least, I do.

Then you’ll notice that something doest’t fit. You see, the Rembrandt shell does not exist in real life. Possibly Rembrandt didn’t know that but in the whole world there is no clockwise Conus Marmoreus to be found!

So, then what?

You can paint an anti-clockwise Rembrandt shell, just as Henk Helmantel did. Maybe because you can’t resist correcting Rembrandt or because it is not in your nature to make a non-existent shell. Everyone has his or her tendencies.

Or you render the shell counterclockwise just like Rembrandt.

Then it doesn’t even matter what material or technique you use, it is the Rembrandt shell anyway.

Choices …