Author : Jacqueline Knox
According to Marlene Dumas she would like her paintings to be like poems. Poems are like sentences that have their clothes taken off. © Tate .
Poetry is writing that breathes and makes jumps and leaves spaces open, so we can read between the lines. Marlene Dumas . © Tate.
This is how you feel about her paintings….you can interpret them however you feel you want to. They are provocative, sensational, political. Regardless of the subject matter, the most outstanding feature for me was the translucent paint that seemed to smudge into each other with bluish hues and translucent fleshy tones.
The title of this exhibition, The Image as Burden, emphasises the fact that Dumas works from photographic and newspaper sources. Her sketch books and some of the photographs and newspaper clippings being displayed in a cabinet at the beginning of the exhibition help to clarify her work processes. This title is taken from Dumas’ painting of Greta Garbo as a dying courtesan being carried by her lover.
Impressive was the series of ink and graphite ‘portrait heads’ pinned directly to the wall on first entering the exhibition. The title was “Rejects’ 1994-2014 and it made me think about why these people were rejects. What is it about a society that seems to favour some and reject others? Marlene Dumas herself was born in South Africa in 1953 and grew up there under apartheid and censorship. In 1976 she moved to The Netherlands, where she is still based. Her paintings communicate complex psychological issues ranging in subject matter from race, pornography, immigration, sexuality and death. The paintings seem to somehow communicate these complex issues directly at the viewer. Maybe it is because they are in large format, close-up and cropped so that as the viewer you are drawn into them.
My favourite painting was of Dumas’ s own daughter age four. The Painter, 1994. She glares at us with a defiant look, staring directly at us with furious eyes which are two black smudges although we can feel her penetrating defiant stare. Her white face, blueish tinged tummy and purple hands somehow encapsulate her rage at being viewed by us. It is very powerful as an image.
Tate Modern is a must visit in London and this exhibition makes a visit worthwhile. We stopped in the restaurant for lunch, but more for the views than the food. You can have coffee on the 6th floor overlooking the Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral. For travelling between Tate Modern and Tate Britain take the ferry between the two and have a peaceful journey down the river, it is one of the best ways to see London from the water.
The exhibition is at Tate Modern until 10th May 2015. It is the most significant exhibition of her work ever to be held in Europe. The exhibition does include some work with explicit content.
All images are kindly reproduced with permission from ©Tate Modern.
London – Tate Modern 5 february – 10 may 2015.