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Amy, Marlene Dumas 2011

‘The Image as Burden’ is a small retrospective of the South African born Dutch artist Marlene Dumas. Dumas is known as one of the most influential painters working today and this exhibition captures a cross section of her work.

The presentation of the work in this exhibit is a little different from the normal format. Normally when visiting an exhibit like this an introduction to each room or section by the curator is written on the wall. Here there are words by Dumas herself, short snatches of thoughts and verse. While the curators words are printed in the (free) guidebook.

This works well and it is interesting to connect the words with the art presented next to them. Tate have really run with this and in places both the words and the art combine to make a whole. It is very effective.

Early in the exhibit there is a room dedicated to work that Dumas produced while still in South Africa in the late 60s and early 70s. This explores the roots of her work. In South Africa there was not much opportunity to see art, other than in reproduction or in books. It is this second hand effect that carries over into Dumas work painting from photographs or other pre existing images.

Dumas moved to Amsterdam in 1976 to study at Ateliers’63. Works presented from this time are very much of their time. It was later that Dumas broke away and found her signature style.

Much of Dumas work is very much the same. Portraits of people taken from images. Both those she has photographed or from Magazines and other sources. It isn’t so much what she does that is important, but rather what she is saying with the work.

There are works that depict the ending of apartheid and move towards a more free society in South Africa. These are not the grand visions and dreams of the rainbow nation. Rather small snapshots of the every day, it’s this simplicity that builds the meaning and power of the images.

As a whole the exhibition works well, it is small enough that time can be taken to see behind the image, and find the meaning within.

Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burdon
Tate Modern
5 February – 10 May 2015
Adult £16.00 (without donation £14.50)
Concession £14.00 (without donation £12.70)
Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian).