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insanity and art

AT FIRST GLANCE, PAULA REGO'S studio, behind the large wooden doors of a nondescript warehouse in London's Kentish Town, looks like an explosion at a car boot sale.

Kitsch plastic ornaments lie piled on old tables; second hand clothes, used as costumes for models, are folded, draped and slung over sofas; threadbare toy monkeys and glassy eyed china dolls, the props that populate Rego's paintings, stare balefully from corners. In the centre of the room, as disturbing as a nightmare, stand two life size mannequins dressed as Victorian women, drowning a baby in a mocked up well.

Since the mid 1990s, when she gave up smoking and stopped working entirely from her imagination (she connects the two events herself), this is the way Rego has painted. First, she creates a scene using her giant "dollies", increasing numbers of props and her regular model, Lila Nunes; then she draws it with large but careful strokes of her pencil. The place is quite mad like walking backstage at the most sinister circus you could imagine. "But nothing I ever do is sinister," protests Rego, wide eyed and then roars with laughter.

Her reputation as one of Britain's most accessible and successful painters is today beyond doubt. In her native Portugal, where the Paula Rego Museum opens in the town of Cascais outside Lisbon later "Anadrol 50" this year, she's as famous as a footballer. A Rego masterpiece can fetch up to 500,000.

She remains unclassifiable in style and technique her work ranges from oils and collage to printmaking and drawing yet the one constant is its novelistic intent. The pictures are fables or dream like moments in time, dealing in drama, emotion and complex human character. Some are obscure snapshots from her childhood in Estoril, up the coast from Lisbon; others the outpouring of feeling in the aftermath of her husband's death in 1988.

Many are political the abortion triptych of 1998, made as "propaganda" in advance of the Portuguese referendum on terminations and some, like the Jane Eyre series, are based on other people's work with which she feels a particularly intense connection. All are intimately personal: real stories filtered through Rego's often surreal fictive universe.

She is 74 now, and still works every day in this studio, from 9:30am to 7pm. "Painting makes me feel alive," she says. "It's not nice getting old. It's obscene. Your energy starts to go, and you fight and fight but you know it's going to happen, and you just wonder when the hell it'll be ." She trails off, then adds, smiling: "I don't mean death I mean being crippled."

I am here to meet Rego and Methenolone Enanthate Effects her friend Jake Auerbach, the film maker and son of another elder statesman artist from north London, Frank Auerbach. Auerbach senior is famously reclusive: "I don't know him but I occasionally see him in "Achat Anabolisant Belgique" the Camden M says Rego.

Jake has made films about Lucian "Anaboliset Aineet" Freud, Ron Kitaj and John Virtue, among others, and last year spent months interviewing and filming Rego for a profile piece called Telling Tales. His tactic is to sit back and "Anaboliset Aineet" let the artists talk about their work at length, and as Rego explains a series of pictures to him on camera, wholly new insights, anecdotes and interpretations come tumbling out.

But perhaps the most intriguing and shocking comment comes right at the end of the film, when Rego is discussing what might happen if she ever stopped painting. "The nuthouse awaits," she states baldly. Nandrolone Anti Inflammatory "Yes, the psychiatric unit. It's a real possibility, not just a fear."

This is an extraordinary admission from an artist whose work has often been interpreted with a psychoanalytical gloss, most frequently Freudian. She has depicted her mother, for example, as both a weeping cabbage and a spider; in The Fisherman triptych, the figure with the huge wobbly head is both The Pillowman, inspired by Martin McDonagh's grisly play of the same name, and her own father.

Auerbach, however, is convinced that Rego is a "highly intellectual artist", too often dismissed as girlishly intuitive. "A lot of her work looks Oral Turinabol 10mg instinctive, as if it's being channelled through her subconscious. But in fact she's someone who thinks hard about things and then takes a stand on them, which is really quite rare nowadays."

Rego has never before spoken of her own mental health. Does she genuinely fear, or even expect, madness? "Ah," she sighs. "Well, I'm a depressive. And being depressed is the worst thing you can be. I'm not just talking about being sad or ordinarily depressed, but having a bout of the real thing. That's what I meant about the nuthouse. I meant the possibility of really suffering (depression] is terrifying. It is fear itself."

Rego was born in Portugal in 1935, shortly after Antonio de Oliveira Salazar became dictator, and the Portuguese landscape and atmosphere of that time informs many of her paintings. The family was well off, yet her father, Jose, was himself often depressed, sometimes to the point of complete muteness. Rego, who has had weekly therapy sessions since the early 1970s, thinks she has inherited the condition from him.

"It's in the family," she tells me. "My father would sit in his chair and listen to the BBC. He wouldn't speak at all. Not over dinner or at any point, poor bugger. And then at nine o'clock, the music would come on, and it was time for bed. It was very distressing for my mother because she was a lively, vivacious kind of person."

Yet Rego always felt closer to her father than her mother, she says. "He was a kind man, and immensely liberal. He let me go. He told me to go. He said that Portugal was no place for a woman who wanted to get on, and he was right."

She came to London in 1952, and at the Slade School of Art met Victor Willing, himself a brilliant artist (though a married one). When she became pregnant by Willing as a student, her father immediately drove to London to see her, and took her back to Portugal, without judgment, to have her baby daughter, whom she named Caroline.

Later, Rego married Willing and there were two more children, Victoria and Nicholas. But it wasn't long before he "buy cheap jintropin online" too fell ill with multiple sclerosis and thus began more than 15 years of slow deterioration. Though Willing died 20 years ago, even now Rego slips into the present tense when she speaks of him. "I don't find it difficult talking about Vic. I'm very jealous of him. He is a much better painter than I."

It seems to me that a significant portion of Rego's work deals with the illness of men and the impotence of women who try to cure them. The most important figures in her life Victor Willing and Jose Rego both suffered relentless, debilitating conditions and it's through her work that Rego seems best to have processed the experience. One of her most enigmatic and tantalising paintings, The Family, features a man at its centre, dressed in a suit, half slumped on a bed, surrounded by three women one, an adult, pulling at his jacket sleeve and smirking; a little girl, back turned, apparently rubbing herself against him suggestively, and a third girl standing alone by the window with her hands clasped firmly together, perhaps in prayer. The man is Vic, Rego reveals, and the women are trying desperately to make him well.

"But who else could it be except Vic?" she asks, as though it's nonsense to suggest anything else. "The women are attempting a miracle. The little girl with her back to the window is a miraculous little girl, but even she can't manage to make him better."

So art itself has been Rego's most effective form of therapy. She receives treatment for depression, and when it's too bad she can't work at all, but "work also helps me face the things that are frightening". When she has finished a painting, she feels "cleansed". "I feel much younger. It isn't a sense of relief, but of purity. It feels as though I have got rid of something in me."

Rego laughs a little shyly. Lila Nunes, the model whom Rego describes as both "collaborator and playmate", also keeps watch. Nunes came to England from Portugal in the mid 1980s to help nurse Willing in his last few years, but stayed after his death and has been sitting for Rego ever since.

"The way I got out of that horrible nightmare of Vic's death was by tying Lila up in ribbons, and slowly untying her and untying her. The more I untied her, the more normal my life became," Rego says now.

The untying is metaphorical. In 1994, Rego painted the Dog Woman series, one of which shows Nunes sleeping on her master's coat in fact, Willing's blazer.

"The Dog Woman pictures brought a lot of memories back," she tells Auerbach on film. "I was able to relive being in touch with him again, do you see what I mean? And it was very, very nice."

Auerbach says: "If the film could do one thing, I would love Paula to start being described as a great artist rather than a great female artist. I think there's an unnecessary ghettoisation on occasions. She's a British artist with an international audience and reputation."

Rego nods in appreciation. But they are both busy people. Jake has to go and sit for his father, as he has every week since he was a teenager. And Rego has work to do on her scary women drowning the baby. They are models for a picture commissioned by the Foundling Museum in Coram's Fields the old orphanage in Bloomsbury on whose steps single mothers would leave their babies. In this picture, however, Rego has chosen to depict an even more horrifying moment of abandonment infanticide itself. It seems to me classic Rego: haunting, compelling and defiantly weird.

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