Art review 1 ~ Marlene Dumas

Marlene Dumas – The Image as Burden

After handing over my weeks food money I was granted entrance. The first of 14 rooms contained many disfigured  portraits named ‘rejects‘. Each picture consisted of two overlapping images with areas cut out allowing the covered image to peep through. I must admit I enjoyed this room and found myself comparing the almost caricature like faces to friends and family. However, I found that any conceptual meaning of these images was forced upon them afterwards, rather than being the reason for their development.

Flashbacks of handing over £16 pounds (a lot for a student) greeted me whilst working my way around room 2. You would be annoyed to receive a meal that was created by a ten-year old chef whilst dining at a top establishment, I see no difference in a gallery. I believed it was un-tasteful to include Dumas’ Miss World ‘drawing’ and somewhat spoilt the rest of the room for me.

I continued on, pushing previous thoughts to the back of my mind. The next major piece that caught my eye was in room 5, ‘Black Drawings‘. I noticed straight away that the portraits had been painted in very dated, stereotypically racist ways. With further inspection the meaning behind the whole piece turned out be her way of showing that even when news papers, magazines and the like tried to generalise black people in a derogatory manner, they still highlighted the uniqueness of each person thus counteracting their own racist views. However,  I am unsure about the effectiveness of ironic imagery and would have considered this very risky considering it was created just as the apartheid was ending. Leading to a high possibility of it being misinterpreted…

Dumas’ work was inspired by a lot of different political situations. I felt that she did not stay focussed on each of these for long enough however, thus the latter of 14 rooms felt almost rushed without the consideration that the topics deserved. It made me feel uneasy about what I was seeing, I wanted to convince myself that she was using the power she holds as an established artist for good and that by discussing these political issues she was raising awareness with a positive effect. But I couldn’t help the overriding sense that money was the main objective with most of the pieces. I could be being unfair to Dumas and this may have been the fault of curator trying to fit too much into one and consequently minimising the impact of each picture. Unfortunately the egotistical nature of the many quotes, do not give me much hope for this.

Overall I believed the exhibition to be stretched out. If it had been divided into a few much cheaper exhibitions I may have jumped to different conclusions.  I enjoyed a lot of the visual aesthetics to the pieces (excluding the odd and unnecessary pornographic room with almost all pictures being owned by private collectors…) and appreciated how she had used different techniques that you see being built on throughout the many rooms.

Visual: 6/10  Conceptual: 5/10 Overall: 5/10

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