My people were all shot by a camera,
framed, before I painted them. They
didn’t know that I’d do this to them.
They didn’t know by what names I’d
call them.

My best works are erotic displays
of mental confusions (with intrusions
of irrelevant information).

Marlene Dumas 1985

In 1985 Dumas staged The Eyes of the Night Creatures, a solo exhibition of larger-than-life-size portraits described by the artist as a series of ‘situations’. It signalled a return to painting and representation. Each work was painted in a different style and based on either a Polaroid or found photograph, to create faces that became sites of psychological exploration. The tight cropping of the portraits isolates the subject and evokes photographic and film techniques, which Dumas has cited as important influences on her practice:

From blowing-up to zooming-in, the close-up was a way
for me to get rid of irrelevant background information,
and making facial elements so big increased the sense
of abstraction concerning the picture plane.

Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and Jean Genet’s Un chant d’amour (1950) were particularly important cinematic reference points. 

Allusive titles attached to each work, some of which were literally inscribed into the canvas, encourage the viewer to consider portraiture as a cultural construct.

Wall text

My people were all shot
by a camera, framed,
before I painted them.
They didn’t know that I’d do this to them.
They didn’t know by what names I’d call them…
My best works are erotic displays
of mental confusions
(with intrusions of irrelevant information).

Marlene Dumas The Eyes of the Night Creatures 1985