They are Harpies, Homer’s personified storm winds who carry the unprepared into oblivion. In the dog women series, which preceded them, there was always a story, a male presence implied though never seen. But with The Ostriches there is no story; no man (or child) is present or implied. The ostrich women may tempt or pursue men, but these are pictures of states of mind rather than narration; the most ‘abstract’, in the imaginative sense, of her career so far.

“I don’t think there’s much happiness in these pictures,” says Lila Nunes, who being Portuguese nevertheless recognises their ferocity. “Some of them would eat you up. They even go out looking. The sleeping one is the safest.” Her opinion of a recent article on The Ostriches is indicative: “Not bad, considering the writer wasn’t Portuguese.” Even the light on the pictures seems Portuguese, a storm light fit for Harpies, though they were drawn in Camden Town and done for ‘Spellbound’, an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in spring 1996 to mark the centenary of British cinema.

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