I was invited by the British Council to make a selection of pictures for the Thresholds exhibition, at the Whitechapel Gallery, in London. I was helped, in a subtle and unobtrusive way, by Diana Eccles, the keeper of the collection, and by my friend Robert McPherson, who had given me my first exhibition in the UK, at the Air Gallery, in London. Later, I had the pleasure of choosing even more works for a bigger exhibition at the House of Stories in Cascais.

The British Council keeps their collection in a warehouse, and I did not realise how much there would be to see. I walked down some steps and came to racks and racks full of pictures. You cannot see the pictures properly in the racks, but you spot something and then it is pulled out and you see what it is, and you are always, always surprised.

There are all kinds of pictures there from all kinds of eras; Cecil Beaton's very early photographs, Graham Sutherland's howling vegetables, David Hockney's wonderful Grimm's Fairy Tales, and Madame Yevonde's image of a naked woman sewing an enormous gauze veil with an old hand sewing-machine, which is glamorous and incongruous.

At the end of the room were big, black, cardboard boxes, stacked on top of each other, full of etchings and prints. I had the impression that some had not been opened for years and years, that no-one had ever looked at some of them. I came across a magic world of places so beautifully drawn, houses with windows of various sizes, landscapes and townscapes, often mysterious. I felt my heart beating not knowing what lay underneath; surprise after surprise and I was full of expectation and delight.

I like drawing. I like looking at drawings, how the drawing came about, the impulse of the artist. The excitement at looking closely at some of the drawings, following the ink marks made by Sickert, the line of how he draws the legs of the man. There is a point where you can see he is not sure which way to go, a blot, as if it is slightly wrong, but he presses on regardless even if he makes a mistake. It makes it an awkward, exciting, slightly threatening image. They have marvellous drawings there.

I really only chose what I liked. I didn't choose pictures because of the name of the artist, or because they were considered historically significant. Very often I didn't know who had done them. Some I had seen before, but others not. I loved the freedom to like by looking.

I stayed quite a while and could have stayed longer, looking and looking, filled with pleasure. I came away slightly disarmed but full of delight, and could not think of anything better that I'd seen. I remember my visits with great fondness, and loved being asked to do this. I want more and more enchantment.

Paula Rego
December 2010