I am the third person
observing the bad marriage
between art and life
watching the pose and the slip
seeing the end in the beginning.

Marlene Dumas Couples 1990

The intense, psychologically-charged works of Marlene Dumas explore themes such as sexuality, love, death and shame, often making reference to art history, popular culture and current affairs. Dumas never paints directly from life, instead choosing to use pre-existing images for her source material. Yet despite working at a time dominated by the digital image and mass media, she cherishes the physicality of the human touch and the potency of painting. For Dumas:

there is the image (source photography) you start with and the image (the painted image) you end up with and they are not the same. I wanted to give more attention to what the painting does to the image, not only to what the image does to the painting.

Born in 1953 in South Africa, Dumas moved to the Netherlands in 1976, where she came to prominence in the mid-1980s for her ‘portrait’ paintings which became sites for political commentary, and drawings primarily based on the human form. These works demonstrated an investigation of the interrelationships between painterly gestures and subject matter, the photographic image and text, and between the viewer and artwork. All these concerns that continue to characterise Dumas’s approach.

Structured within a loose chronology, the exhibition spans Dumas’s entire career. It includes texts written by the artist, which offer context and create a space for multiple readings of her work.

The title of the exhibition is taken from The Image as Burden 1993, which can be seen in Room 6. As with many of Dumas’s works, her choice of title plays with our preconceptions, affects the interpretation of the painting and acts as a lens through which to view the exhibition.