Studio International

Published 14/10/2003

Paula Rego: Jane Eyre and Other Stories

Marlborough Fine Art, London. 15 October-22 November 2003.

Reaction to the Iraqi War in the West has been strangely muted among artists. In England, Paula Rego has produced a pastel at Marlborough Fine Art, which accompanies a new set of 25 lithographs, drawing inspiration from Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre. The Iraq pastel is different, and deploys the distinctive imagery of human victims as a kind of menagerie of performing marionettes, wearing animal masks. In this spook-ridden house (where Jane Eyre was employed as governess), the pastel 'War' offers key figurative images taken from European traditions of religious art and their taboos: a loopy rabbit acts as an anxious pietà dressed in the blue garments traditional to the Virgin.

Rego describes her own graphically active hand as a seismograph, setting down the traumatic turbulence of her affected mind. 'War' reflects just such a psychological tremor, and such images from the 'bunny' world (or is it, as one commentator claims, the world of Richard Kelly's film 'Donnie Darko'?) are moving effects of a war drift – profoundly distressing.