Marlene Dumas: Making the Familiar Unfamiliar

  • November 15, 2013 10:53

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Marlene Dumas

Some portraits represent how the subject appears and others invoke the inner character. Marlene Dumas chooses a different path. The figures are cold and flat. They stand plainly against a void, most have an unreadable expression. It evokes ideas of atrophy and decay. These portraits are states of mind, larger ideas of society in human form.

Marlene Dumas has commented that she does not feel as if someone can be judged by their appearance nor does she feel comfortable having her art reduced to theme or plot. Her inspiration is from the image itself. Polaroids, magazine ads, drowning victims, Emily Dickenson, and Dumas’ own daughter are the influences she draws upon. In these desolate works, the hauntingly personal is entwined with the public.

Growing up with apartheid in South Africa greatly influenced her later career. Heavy media censorship meant very few options for movies or art. Dumas had a rich fantasy life as a child. She enjoyed collecting photos and drawing pictures of women. Figuration does not always require a model and Dumas is part of a wave of artists who find their subjects second hand from advertisements and labels. She adds abstraction and expressionism to the image and brings new meanings to it. She strips away any sense of a background so that the only focus is on the person in the painting.

Fusion and clashing ideals are another favorite of Marlene Dumas. In 1995, Dumas created a series that combined fashion photos of model Naomi Campbell and Flemish works of Mary Magdalene repenting. Dumas has commented that she enjoys contrasting themes, making the sane seem insane and vice versa.

These ideas are further explored in the Magdalenaseries. In this series, individual women stand naked and vulnerable. The colors are cold, adding to the feeling of distance and exposure. This exploration of desire and rejection steams from Dumas’ fascination with the story of Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus, which he had rejected. Considering herself a romantic, Dumas enjoys the reversal and departure from typical gender roles.

Dumas specializes in making the familiar unfamiliar and combining the private with the public. Her works are honest and unflinching.

Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman's Fine Art here.



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Ackerman's Fine Art Blog | Art of the 19th - 21st Centuries

The Ackerman's Fine Art blog offers advice and insight into the art world and important artists from American and Europe. Our blog offers information about how to collect and care for your art and provides tips on how to spot quality examples by various artists.

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