Marlene Dumas, between the two waters of occidentalism and the African culture
Originally from South Africa, Marlene Dumas spent most of her life in Holland, a few hundred kilometers from France where she won her first titles of nobility as an artist. Ranked among the Expressionists, her very psychological and tortured work, if not psychologically tortured, explores existential themes such as death, violence or sexuality with a minimalist style intended to express raw emotions, such as the darkness of the soul underlying in each of us.
With racism, mass media is a particular concern for Dumas. She believes that the endless stream of photographic images provided by our society is an autosuggestion that influences how we see each other and, generally, the world around us. That is a common focus for living artists but it does get much more sense for an artist who is used to work out her portraits from a huge database of photographs she takes here and there from people in the street.
One of the most controversial piece by Dumas is her representation of Bin Laden, which convey feminism and sweetness in opposition to the Inside. Her first auction record of most expensive living artist was achieved in 2005 for The Teacher (Sub a) 1987, sold $3.3 million at Chrisitie’s London. The Visitor (1995) depicting a group of strippers standing by an open door, has been sold $6.3 million at Sotheby’s London in 2008, taking her to the second place of the board of the most expensive living women artists (ranking 2014), behind Cady Noland.
“The relationship between image and text is very important to me. Would this painting still intrigue us if we didn’t know its title?” Marlene Dumas about Ousama.
But do not deceive you, Marlene Dumas has the syndrome of the confrontation between Western and African cultures, where life and death, happiness, women, sex or greed, do not have the same meaning, being either there or elsewhere. From her african roots (she was raised in South Africa during Apartheid), the Dumas style is a message of hope more than a trip to hell or the existential boredom.