Two Cousins (Jan and Paul)
mixed media on paper
2 parts, each 76 × 59.5 cm
Inv. No. 0010a,b
Marlene Dumas was born in Cape Town. The southern tip of the African continent, which is antagonistic to images, is evidently the storehouse for Dumas` pictorial ideas. In many of the (mostly watercolour) portraits she has painted, the unambiguous assignment to white or black disappears. In her subconscious, Dumas apparently sees her “models” as representations of an apartheid-free world. The work Two Cousins is reduced to just two sheets. The different colour register used for the two depictions (the artist’s husband and her gallerist) generates a field of tension in which the viewer’s gaze moves backwards and forwards from the focal centre, (the triangle between mouth and eyes), and to the edges. These edges have been chosen with exceptional sensitivity to act as borders between face and ground, the latter being the untreated paper. Because of that, the faces project forwards strongly without either transition or colour merging, thus leaving the significance of the head undisturbed. No emotion can be detected on either of the faces, they appear to be almost phlegmatic. Marlene Dumas usually uses colour sparingly, making the experience of these two pictures – Jan’s blue juxtaposed with Paul’s pink – all the more intensive.
The two portraits make Dumas’ perfection and mastery in her approach to the paper clear. She tested the reaction of the colours in the watercolour technique on innumerable sheets. It is remarkable that just two works can suggest a series, and that those two are sufficient to reveal so much.
Georg Kargl, 2005 (translation: Tim Sharp)Continue reading
Sehnsucht nach dem Abbild. Das Porträt im Wandel der Zeit, Kunsthalle Krems, Krems, 2009
Nach Rokytník. The collection of EVN, MUMOK, Vienna, 2005
There is something you should know. Die EVN Sammlung im Belvedere, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 2000