Tate Modern Presents Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden

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Installation view Rejects, 1994-ongoing, at Marlene Dumas: Image as Burden at Tate Modern, 2015. Photo: © TateThe show brings together over 100 of her most important and iconic works.

LONDON. The Amsterdam-based South African artist Marlene Dumas is one of the most prominent painters of her generation. Tate Modern’s large-scale survey is the most significant exhibition of her work ever to be held in Europe, charting her career from the early 1970s to the present. The exhibition Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden (5 February – 10 May 2015) offers a compelling overview of her work, exploring the physical and psychological reality of human existence and the importance of the painted image. The show brings together over 100 of her most important and iconic paintings and drawings, her experimental collaged works and her most recent canvases, announced from Tate Modern.

Dumas’s intense, psychologically-charged imagery often references art history, popular culture and current affairs. Her approach to making art combines the personal with the public, painting those closest to her – such as her daughter in Helena’s Dream (2008) – alongside images of such famous and infamous faces as Amy Winehouse, Princess Diana, Osama bin Laden and Phil Spector. She is unafraid to address controversial subjects, from a colonial war for independence in The Woman of Algiers (2001) to a political assassination in The Widow (2013), as well as themes derived from newspaper articles, religious imagery, the adult entertainment industry and the artist’s imagination. Simultaneously drawing upon the world around her and her own experiences, Dumas reflects on contemporary anxieties about love and death, gender and sexuality, and mass media and celebrity.

Marlene Dumas, Amy - Blue (2011). National Portrait Gallery, London © Marlene Dumas. Photo: Peter Cox* * *

A survey of works by the South-African born artist gives
      reason to why she is perhaps the world’s
      most interesting figure painter.

      Financial Times

…a thrilling retrospective.
      The Guardian

Sex and death – Dumas always keeps us on our toes.
       Ben Luke, The Evening Standard

…even in a world awash with imagery,
      painting can still move, even haunt.

      The Daily Telegraph

* * *

Dumas came to prominence in the mid-1980s for her series of paintings and drawings primarily based on the human form. Many of her portraits are drawn from her own photographs and media images, such as Evil is Banal (1984) and Martha – Sigmund’s Wife (1984). The exhibition shows how her nuanced approach to subject matter, photography and paint itself can first be found in the early works Dumas made in her home nation of South Africa. Visitors can trace her extraordinary mix of immediacy and intimacy from these rarely-exhibited works, through to her seminal paintings and across four decades of her career. In an era dominated by the proliferation of images, Dumas’s work can be seen as a testament to the meaning and potency of painting.

Marlene Dumas, The Image as Burden (1993). Private collection, Belgium © Marlene Dumas. Photo: Peter CoxThe exhibition’s title is derived from Dumas’s The Image as Burden (1993), a small painting depicting one figure carrying another. The composition was inspired by a film* still of Greta Garbo (1905-1990) and Robert Taylor (1911-1969), but also brings to mind art historical images of Mary contemplating the dead body of Jesus.

Dumas draws a connection between the subject of the painting, and the painter who carries the weight of her subject. Her interest lies in the impact that the act of painting has on the image, rather than that of the image on the painting.

Marlene Dumas was born in 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa. She moved to the Netherlands in 1976 to study at Ateliers ’63 in Haarlem, before settling in Amsterdam, where she continues to live and work today. A collection of Dumas’ early works on paper, including several large collages, were exhibited at the Atelier 15 group exhibition in 1978 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Her first solo exhibition took place at Galerie Annemarie de Kruyff in Paris in 1979.

She is represented in major private and public collections around the world, and has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Haus der Kunst, Munich; MoCA, Los Angele and MoMA, New York.

Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden is curated at Tate Modern by Kerryn Greenberg, Curator, International Art, with Helen Sainsbury, Head of Programme Realisation, and Fiontán Moran, Assistant Curator. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog by Tate Publishing and program for talks and events in the gallery. It was organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Marlene Dumas, The Widow (2013). Private Collection © Marlene Dumas* * *

Related events

Courses and workshops

The Spirit of Things: Poetry of the Body
Mondays, 16 February - 23 March 2015, 18.45-20.15;

The Image and Body in Life and Death
Mondays, 23 February - 30 March 2015, 18.45-20.15;

Painting, Print and Memory Portraiture
Mondays, 2 March – 30 March 2015, 18.30-20.30.

Marlene Dumas, Evil is Banal (1984). Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands © Marlene Dumas. Photo credit: Peter Cox, Eindhoven, The NetherlandsTalks and lectures

BSL Tour: Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden
Friday, 6 March 2015, 19.00-20.00.
Curator’s tour: Marlene Dumas.

Monday, 16 March 2015, 18.30-20.30.
Curator’s tour: Marlene Dumas.

Monday, 13 April 2015, 18.30-20.30.
Artist talk: Marlene Dumas.

Thursday, 16 April 2015, 18.30-20.00.


Miss Interpreted (Marlene Dumas)
Sundays, 22 March, 29 March, 5 April, 3 May 2015, 12.00 and 15.00.


* Camille (1936) – Directed by George Cukor (1899-1983). The picture is based on the 1848 novel and 1852 play La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824-1895).

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