TateShots

Marlene Dumas: Great Men portrait series

In this film, Marlene Dumas talks about her Great Men series, a group of portraits made in response to Russia’s anti-gay legislation

This film focuses on Marlene Dumas' Great Men series, a group of portraits made in response to Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Heavily influenced by gay artists and writers throughout her career Dumas talks about capturing the essence and personality of each subject through a process of drafting and re-drawing. She hopes this iteration of the series, although conservative in its presentation, pulls the audience into each individual portrait’s story.

Transcription

Parcolini, Oscar Wilde, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns I have realised that a lot of the artists and people that have influenced me a lot in my work has been gay men.

I’ll show you for example, this Fassbender; I’m a big Fassbender fan, but it was difficult to get the likeness because Fassbender has got different faces but he’s got, sometimes he looks either like Richard Burton but what he’s got is, in a sense, a disdain almost a, sort of, sometimes, you know, looking at you thinking, oh you know.

Francis Bacon. I am, yes, quite satisfied with the drawing of him but I just realised you have both the same image as inspiration; this was the first attempt at this, to see, I’ve almost forgotten about that.

For London I would like to do David Hockney. I wanted to capture a mischievous look a, sort of, sexy mischievous look and I could not at all, so I looked at all these different versions. This was my first; it looks like somebody else. Then I tried this one; it has not got that attitude of, maybe this is still the closest but if I don’t manage to get a likeness which feels for me, at least got a bit of the spirit of him in there, then he will maybe have to go.

I definitely didn’t want a grid and I didn’t want too many of the men because then they’d become a group, too much a group and I would like them to also exist as individuals. Even if they are categorised by this sexuality, by the fact that the law has criminalised them and put them together, they are individual, different men.

It’s not provocative in its form. It must feel, in a sense, quite conservative almost so it can attract you to go inside the story and pulls you in.

We Recommend

TateShots

Colm Tóibín on Marlene Dumas

The Irish Booker prize nominee reflects on Barton Springs, the short story he wrote inspired by the work of Marlene ...

Find Out More