Dumas often uses images that already contain a history of their own, either through their circulation in mass media or their use by other artists, which then involves grappling with a multitude of references and existing interpretations. In this room, Dumas’s most recent paintings have been brought together with works that explore the representation (or lack thereof) of the politicised female figure across time. In The Trophy 2013, Dumas returns to the same source photograph as The Woman of Algiers (included in Room 11) to reveal a wider view of the naked woman being held by the French military. By retaining the censorship bars from the original newspaper reproduction, Dumas reminds the viewer of the continued power of images, especially those of the female body, at times of conflict.
The relationship between colonialism, the private and public self and the female body in politics is explicitly played out in The Widow 2013. For this work Dumas returned to a photograph that had long fascinated her of Pauline Lumumba walking bare-breasted through the streets of Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) in an act of mourning. In 1961 her husband Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo was assassinated by Katangan authorities with the support of the Belgian and American governments.
Dumas painted the photograph twice, one depicting a broader scene with a greater sense of depth on a small canvas, the other focusing on the figure of Pauline to create a cinematic close-up that draws attention to ‘what the painting does to an image’.
This experience of images resurfacing, of plays in scale, shifts in colour and composition all reflect the multitude of ways Dumas has questioned the status of the image within contemporary society, while further pushing the possibilities of painting and the expectations of the viewer.
If we get to heaven
and meet the Big Bright Light
what will it be –
the eyes of the saints
or the flash of the camera?
Marlene Dumas The Second Coming 2004