I don’t spend much time in the capital, so I tend to go with a friend to make sure I don't get lost/run over/corrupted to the dark side while I'm down there. This friend used to work a lot there, so she headed from the station with confidence, me scurrying behind like a country mouse, albeit one with a huge rucksack (flask and train snacks, space for buying of many books and things) and red trainers.
By the simple act of turning right out of Paddington, she opened up a whole new world for me. One of parks and sculpture, where the air felt clean, the traffic noise dropped and London revealed itself to be rather spiffy indeed.
Everything sparkled in the sunshine. Even the barista in the park sparkled with good will to humankind, especially those that are ladies of a certain age in need of strong coffee and plentiful napkins to mop the damp seats with.
Refreshed, we set a pace through Kensington Gardens (which I hadn't known was there!), past Wellington's house - No. 1 London, which is a pretty cool address to have, even for an old warhorse - through Marble Arch, past the astonishing memorial, along the outside of Buck. Palace (lots of spiky topped walls and signs warning oiks to Stay Away), and along to Vauxhall Bridge for lunch.
I ate a plate of gnocci in a gorgonzola sauce and it was Good. Admired the backs of the MI's 5 and 6 - they don't exactly try to blend in, do they? Then hotfooted it to the Tate.
The first thing to strike you as you enter the Rego exhibition is just the sheer scale of her work. They are huge. Vast canvases that command your attention. So often her work is seen through social media, which democratises art, but also, I thought in this context, diminishes it. How can you possibly feel the raw energy and power of work like this through a tiny phone screen?
Anyway, I will shut up for a minute, so you can see for yourselves (yes, I'm aware of the irony)...
Each canvas was as large as a man, and contained all the power in the world. I loved how the Tate were showing a whle life retrospective, so you really got an idea of how her work had progressed throughout the decades.
I also really appreciated that she and her regular model really collaborated on the works together. So often models are ciphers or, perhaps worse, muses. Silent and passive things. Not this time and the combination of minds creates something strange and other.
Her drawings are delicate things, beautifully executed, that then transform into these storms on canvas. You're left with the impression of a woman who learned to become uncompromising, who was politically engaged from an early age, and who will have no truck with mealy-mouthed "niceness".
I'd quite like to sit at her feet and listen to her talk.
And now I’m going to sign off. The Kid returns to Sunderland today and I’m already a little wibbly about it. Come on Collett, stiff upper lip, straight back. You got this.
Till next time.
ps N says the last Rego portrait is my spirit painting. I’m good with that.