Marlene Dumas

Biography of Marlene Dumas

The South-African artist Marlene Dumas (born 1953) explores the human figure with her drawings, paintings, collages, prints, and installations by means of uniting its intimacy and fragile nature with blatantly distorted images of popular culture – at times in pornographic but also in modest ways. She is considered to be one of the most important and influential painters of today. Dumas, who emigrated to the Netherlands at the age of 23, creates autonomous works startling by their expressiveness and universality of the human body rather than concentrating on realistic representation. "I use second-hand images and first-hand emotions", claims the artist, who mostly employs magazines, newspapers and photographs as guidelines to her oil paintings as well as paper works. Drawing on themes such as gender, sexuality, and social identity, Dumas creates glimpses of a shared humanity – be it with delicate, washed-out brushstrokes or out of scale and off-proportioned, raw sexual images. An example is Labelled (1998), a female nude painted in soft pastel colors, with large breasts and broad hips, embodying a woman who appears confident and strong while at the same time melting into the background of the canvas by the artists use of soft, blurry brushstrokes. Her prints and lithographs express intangible notions like suffering, love, and death. Dumas' multiples are brilliant examples for the increasing abstraction and simplification of surfaces: color, scale, and texture are taken into notion and result in humble and coevally rough images that startle with their directness and expressiveness. Marlene Dumas lives and works in Amsterdam.

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