Marlene Dumas is one of the most prominent painters working today. Her intense, psychologically charged works explore themes of sexuality, love, death and shame, often referencing art history, popular culture and current
affairs – themes you can explore through related events.
‘Secondhand images’, she has said, ‘can generate first-hand
emotions.’ Dumas never paints directly from life, yet life in all its
complexity is right there on the canvas. Her subjects are drawn from
both public and personal references and include her daughter and
herself, as well as recognisable faces such as Amy Winehouse, Naomi
Campbell, Princess Diana, even Osama bin Laden. The results are often
intimate and at times controversial, where politics become erotic and
portraits become political. She plays with the imagination of her
viewers, their preconceptions and fears.
Born in 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa, Dumas moved to the
Netherlands in 1976, where she came to prominence in the mid-1980s. This
large-scale survey is the most significant exhibition of her work ever
to be held in Europe, charting her career from early works, through
seminal paintings to new works on paper.
The title of the exhibition is taken from The Image as Burden
1993, a small painting depicting one figure carrying another. As with
many of Dumas’s works, her choice of title deeply affects our
interpretation of the work. It hints at the sense of responsibility
faced by the artist in choosing to create an image that can translate
ideas about painting and the position of the artist. For Dumas it is
important ‘to give more attention to what the painting does to the
image, not only to what the image does to the painting.’
In an age dominated by the digital image and mass media, Dumas
cherishes the physicality of the human touch with work that is a
testament to the meaning and potency of painting.