Always dangerous: Marlene Dumas

Originally from Kuils River near Cape Town, a Dutch artist who is also South African and also an outsider An intruder, an interloper. No fugitive sentimentality here.  Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do With It

Dumas’ paintings do not lend themselves to one-line definitions, although, at the same time, they seem to offer critics a whole number of keywords, not to say clichés, which are widely used in interpreting both painting as well as contemporary art in general. These include politics and feminism, gender and engagement, iconographic and stylistic tropes from the history of art and film, direct and indirect quotes, painterly representations of that which was already processed in cinema, photography, etc. –  to name but a few. Each of these concepts is correct in the above context and, at the same time, none of them fully grasps the essence. Love and hate, tenderness and cruelty, innocence and guilt, sanctity and blasphemy, life and death – such ambivalence seems to dominate the descriptions of Dumas’ works. Eros and Thanatos, sex and death, eroticism and pornography. Presented in groups, her paintings often come into a dialogue, or violent conflicts, with each other – even though they are separated by a massive white wall or an empty space. Varying in scale – from three meters to merely several dozen centimeters – either too big or too small, too vivid or too grey, they are never neutral in relation to the surrounding space. They never seem ‘fully at home’, eluding the aesthetic of the white cube.

 

 

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