Marlene Dumas

° 1953

Lives in Amsterdam (NL), born in Cape Town (ZA).

'I am an artist who uses second-hand images and first-hand emotions'. - Marlene Dumas, 1989

Marlene Dumas (°1953) grows up in Cape Town, South Africa under the apartheid regime, which continues to have a big influence on her critical thinking. She studies painting at the Cape Town Academy. The dark, figurative and worrisome works from that period are permeated by a sultry unrest. The censorship, however, starts to weigh on her and in 1976 she moves to Amsterdam, where she still lives today.

During the first years in Amsterdam she works mostly with paper, creating large drawings in pencil, ink or chalk, usually with text, sometimes with newspaper and magazine clippings. The paper is pasted, torn, mottled and scratched. Dumas brings together events from her own life and stories and images from movies and books, but she always allows the viewers to make their own interpretation.

The role of women is a central starting point in her work, ranging from the female nude, which has lost its meaning, to the naked woman who loses her senses. She paints many portraits, sometimes in soft colours, that present hard truths. A portraits of a child shows no laughing, rosy face, but an aged child with a stony look, full of knowing. Many faces cover her canvases, ranging from the mentally ill to female idols.

Dumas searches for a specific person, rather than the general, a person set in a specific time, rather than a symbol. Her paintings share the same qualities as the photographic source material: a directness, loss of details, overexposure, lack of sharpness and skewed proportions.

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