Archive: Issue No. 121, September 2007

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Marlene Dumas

Two of Marlene Dumas'
Portraits of blindfolded Iraqi prisoners currently on 'Africa Remix' at the JAG

Marlene Dumas comes to the SANG

Recognised as one of the world's major art stars, South African-born, Michaelis trained painter Marlene Dumas, a long time resident of Holland, returns to South Africa in November this year to open a solo exhibition of her work at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town. Although Dumas' powerful oil paintings, watercolours and prints have been seen on group shows here, notably on 'Africa Remix', currently up at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, and the artist donated a set of tapestries to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, this exhibition will provide the first opportunity for South African audiences to see her work in depth.

Entitled 'Marlene Dumas: Intimate Relations', the exhibition has been curated by Emma Bedford, and will travel to the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg in February 2008. The fact that the show is happening at all represents a coup for Bedford, who had to compete with galleries and museums from around the world for a strong selection of Dumas' highly in-demand work. In 2005, she hit art world headlines. Her painting The Teacher fetched the highest auction price ever achieved by a woman artist when it was knocked down for $US3.34 million.

Dumas chose the title 'Intimate Relations' herself, thus providing a curatorial framework and focus for a consideration of what 'constitutes intimate relations between people, places and painting'.

Intimacy has always been a characteristic of Dumas' approach - the sense of her direct, deep and empathic connection with the subjects she is painting is linked with an extraordinary ability to convey that involvement through the action of putting paint to paper or canvas. On paper particularly, her ability to capture the essence of a person through an apparently loose arrangement of swiftly applied inky washes is unique, though she has many imitators.

Her writing on her own working methods and influences, like her art, is down to earth, witty and reveals essential truths about what it means to be a woman and an artist. A catalogue accompanying the show will be published by Jacana Media.

This will be one of the most important shows of the year. The dates at the SANG are November 8 to January 13 and at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg, February 6 to March 29.