One of my all time favorite surreal painters is MARLENE DUMAS. I am very much in awe of her work and am bringing you today why! Next week I will be posting about a new artist, abstract expressionist, named NICOLE COHEN, New York artist that is amazing!
MARLENE DUMAS’S STUDIO occupies an underheated, underfurnished ground-floor apartment on the southern side of Amsterdam. As she sat at her worktable one evening in late March, emptying a bottle of white wine and picking at a plate of almond pastries, she offered an image of contented Bohemianism.
Beside her, a red vase held a bouquet of dead white tulips, and beyond an unusually tall window, dusk was gathering in a garden densely overgrown with weeds.
In the Netherlands, people talk about the Dutch light in rapturous terms. It is frequently described with adjectives related to jewelry — “pearly,” for instance, or “silvery” — but Dumas is more of a night person. She can customarily be found in her studio at 2 or 3 in the morning, and her desire to record experience in its most extreme forms
— she paints birth, sex, death and violence, for starters — has failed to bring her one inch closer to observing or recording the famed Dutch light. Tellingly, she does not like to travel, even across town.
“I never learned to ride a bicycle, and it is too late now,” she told me with a hint of pride, before going on to list her other negative achievements. “I never learned to drive. I never learned to swim.” At 57, Dumas is a jovial and garrulous presence, with a tangle of blond curls and fair skin. She speaks English
with a heavy accent, in a wheezing, thinned-out voice.
“I was so pleased when I read that Rossellini loved to lie in bed,” she continued, referring to the Italian filmmaker, a confirmed hypochondriac who, she discovered, would take to his bed for two or three days at a time, reading thick novels. “Now people do exercise, and they have hobbies, and they take holidays
,” she said. “I am not one of those. I don’t go to a psychiatrist. I don’t go to a gym. I run away from my accountant, I run away from my dentist. They are all supposed to help you, but I like to stay in bed, where I have a chance to reflect, like Rossellini.”
A DUMAS PAINTING is easy to recognize. It typically shows a face or a figure in dramatic close-up, isolated against a neutral ground. Put another way, the people in her pictures are not sitting in a cafe or strolling the avenue, and they seem to have sprung from some infernal realm where personal memories are
constantly colliding with public traumas. Her subjects include her daughter, her mother, terrorists, drowning victims, hanging victims, Emily Dickinson , the South African poet Elisabeth Eybers and the model Naomi Campbell. In addition to her oil-on-canvas output, she is prolific on paper and specializes in inky
watercolors that use a meltingly sensual style to conjure disturbing scenes, among them strippers standing with their backsides shoved at us or the impassive heads of blindfolded male prisoners who may or may not be alive.