“It’s not the fallen woman
nor the temptress I am after.
It’s not the babydolls I want
nor the Amazons. It’s everything
mixed together to form
a true bastard race.”
Wall text by Marlene Dumas in Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden, Room 7, Tate Modern, London, 2015
Marlene Dumas is a contemporary South African painter whose works confront difficult themes. Her intense, psychological output from the past four decades deal with sexuality, love, death, shame, political oppression, identity, and feminism. To create the haunting portraiture for which she is best known, Dumas draws from a vast collection of images collected throughout her career. This results in portraits of a variety of subjects, from those depicting friends and family to others of famous figures such as Naomi Campbell and Princess Diana. Marlene Dumas never paints from life but from this assemblage of imagery. With their translucent appearance and gestural brush strokes, her portraiture explores the complexities of representation and the fluidity of identity. The medium of painting is something which Dumas is deeply concerned about, having said: “no painting can exist without the tension of what it figures and what it concretely consists of—the pleasure of what it could mean and the pain of what it’s not.” Her portraits, rather than representing the person, attempt to represent their emotion or state of mind.
South African, b. 1953, Cape Town, South Africa, based in Amsterdam.