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The human figure reoccurs in the work of Marlene Dumas, Juan Muñoz and Thomas Schütte in various guises. By creating works that challenge and question, they are among a number of artists making a significant renewal of figurative representation.
Marlene Dumas’ work centres on people in all their variety and inexplicableness. She examines them as the intersection between experience, feelings and ideas in relation to the world around them. Many of her images refer specifically to women. In this selection of recent drawings she uses images from the mass media, such as in Billie Holiday, or images from pornography, such as in It Takes Two, reinventing them visually and investing them with a reality of their own. In doing this, she allows us to witness the convoluted and uneven path between intention and result. Each object, when looked at, already implies an identification but Dumas avoids the glib or simplistic interpretation and creates instead a web of different propositions.
Dumas has made a number of drawings centred on Billie Holiday. The drawings stem from an invitation she received to make a bust of a musician for the Muziekcentrum Vredenburg in Utrecht. The museum otherwise houses a rather conservative collection of conventional busts of classical composers. Dumas chose to make a rather lurid bust of Billie Holiday. She was interested by Holiday’s life story and the issues of race that had influenced her life and career (Dumas is originally South African and consequently very interested in the whole race debate). Dumas’ bust of Billie Holiday is the only representation of a woman in the museum.
The drawing Marlene, Helena & Billy is a collaboration between Marlene Dumas and her five year old daughter, Helena. Dumas made the outline for the drawings of Billie Holiday and Helena was free to invest them with colour. A series of these collaborations will be shown at the Venice Biennale later this year where Marlene Dumas is representing the Netherlands.
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