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Marlene Dumas
Marlene Dumas About Her Work and the Show at Fondation Beyeler
Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden

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Marlene Dumas

From Wikipedia

Marlene Dumas
(born 3 August 1953)
is a South African born artist and painter who lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In the past Dumas produced paintings, collages, drawings, prints and installations. She now works mainly with oil on canvas and ink on paper.

Dumas attended the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa from 1972-1975 and relocated to Amsterdam in 1976, where she attended the University of Amsterdam as a student of painting and psychology from 1979-1980. In 1984, Dumas started painting heads and figures. A series of paintings she executed in the mid-1980s, titled "The Eyes of the Night Creatures", explores recurring themes in the artist's oeuvre, including racial and ethical intolerance. The White Disease (1985) is a painting of an ageing South African woman with pale blue eyes taken from a medical photograph. The painting projects the disease of apartheid and Dumas acknowledges it as one of her favourites. Christie's auction lot notes observes that the painting recalls the influence of predecessors such as Egon Schiele and Leon Golub. Translucent white paint creates a ghostly shade, alluding to the subject's illness, while water-saturated colors gives the portrait an unreal transparency, suggesting the fugitive nature of life. The shape of the nose is replaced by a simple blob of pink color, symbolising a loss of humanity and the subject's indifference to her state.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dumas produced a series of works based around the subject of pregnancy and babies. In 1987, she gave birth to her daughter, Helena, and a great body of work followed. The most compelling is The First People, which is a series of four canvases devoted to newborn infants. Each painting is large (many times greater than life-size) and each is composed vertically. She does not idealize her images; instead the babies are unattractive, squirming little beings with gnarled fingers and toes, bloated bellies, and wrinkled skin. In the 1990s, Dumas indirectly returned to the subject of apartheid. Between 1998 through 2000, in collaboration with the photographer Anton Corbijn, she worked on a project called "Stripping Girls", which took the strip clubs and peep shows of Amsterdam as their subject; while Corbijn exhibited photographs in the show, Dumas took Polaroids which she then used as sources for her pictures.

Since she first began painting portraits in the 1980s, famous figures ranging from Osama Bin Laden to Naomi Campbell, various family members, friends and even unknown persons have been the subjects of her work. The haunting and distorted faces and bodies of her figures are a product of her use of thinned down paint, wiping the pigment away from the canvas to create the washed out, smudged figures that are characteristic of her work. At times dark and disturbing, always weighted in poignancy, and drawn on topical and contentious material, she repeatedly mixes the personal with the political. She has said that her works are better appreciated as originals, to mirror the at times shocking, discomforting intimacy she captures with her works.

For Manifesta 10 in St Petersburg, Dumas created Great Men, a series of 16 ink and pencil portraits that depict famous gay men, including James Baldwin, Leonard Matlovich, Rudolf Nureyev, Vaslav Nijinsky, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Alan Turing, Oscar Wilde and Tennessee Williams. Each of the men depicted was persecuted, in one way or another, because they were suspected of being gay. According to Dumas, the series is to "contribute to a mentality change" in Russia at a time of increasingly anti-gay legislation in the country.

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