Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden


Dutch by way of South Africa, Marlene Dumas mainly does highly stylized portraits. Her subjects tend to become flat or diffused, which allows her to work unexpected colours into the images; for example, a large field of navy blue in an African forehead. It's a very effective technique, and produces some surprising outcomes.

Her work is political, and not always in the best way. A rather sympathetic portrait of Osama bin Laden feels as calculated as the close up of a stripper's backside in the room that precedes it.

Dumas is very insightful about her own work. She regrets that painting cannot make people cry in the way that music, film, and text can. Perhaps this is reflected in her choice of subject matter; maybe her paintings need something external they can point to in order to generate the emotional resonance she desires.

Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden is at the Tate Modern until the 10th of May, 2015

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