Describing her 2011 solo exhibition Forsaken Dumas has written:
This is an exhibition that takes the words of Christ on the
cross as its starting point. The moment of feeling utterly
and absolutely alone, when he cried out, ‘My God, why hast
thou forsaken me?’ It is not … only about the dilemmas of
Christianity, but rather about doubt in general. This is an
exhibition about fathers sacrificing their sons and the
question of what is worth dying for.
Alongside a series of paintings of crucifixes, it included portraits of the singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse and the producer Phil Spector. Unlike many of Dumas’s previous works, these paintings, combined with their titles, refer more explicitly to their subjects and are painted on small canvases that enable an intimate encounter with each one. This interest in identity, relationships and biography recur in Dumas’s most recent series of works on paper, Great Men. In delicate lines and washes the portraits depict notable homosexual men from across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The series was created in reaction to the political situation in Russia, where the promotion of homosexuality is illegal, and first exhibited there in 2014 at the travelling European biennial Manifesta.
A painting needs
a wall to object to,
an image needs
a text to protect it,
and every text needs
someone to decode it.
Marlene Dumas 2009