Marlene Dumas, Tate Modern. April 18th 2015.


I took part in an OCA study day. This was the second study day for me. It was disappointing as a learning experience and I was also disappointed by the exhibition.

It was very difficult to hear what the tutor had to say as we struggled to form a group in the tiny Expresso Bar on Level 3 of Tate Modern. There was little cohesion, as the environment was against the formation of a group, both during the introduction, the tour of the work and at lunch. There was an attempt at some post viewing discussion, but the space (in a noisy resturant) was aginst us. I was glad that I had not travelled to London from Devon simply for this experience.

It would have been helpful to have had some pointers from the tutor, for examples, some questions, about technique, subject, the political messages. It was a very large exhibition. Fortunately it was not too busy.

As a newcomer to the study and practice of painting and drawing, I am ill-equipped to judge technical skills. I was struck by the large scale of the majority of the works and wondered if working on such a large scale makes it easier or more difficult to acheive the end results. Dumas in her monochrome faces uses watercolour and ?pencil. The works are rough, imprecise, un-fussy and I like them for their honesty. But I do not like the feeling they evoked in me. I felt irritated, forced to watch. It may have been the rawness of the images that gave me a voyeristic feeling. There seems to be a political message to much of the work. Something about racism, someting about oppression, something about sexism. It irritated me. My response was “and so?”

The paintings of Dumas’s daughter were intrusive and the one of her daughter with red and blue hands has a demonic feel. I was appalled by the lack of empathy between the artist and her subjects, as communicated through the work. Perhaps she works with photos and 2D sources because she wishes to avoid emotion as she works, but for me, it is the relationship between the artist and the object portrayed which holds interest and depth. Therefore three works stood out amongst all. The portrait of her friend, the black artist, and the two paintings of her sleeping daughter, which, although intrusive, had a tenderness which I did not find anywhere else.




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