Arguably the best living female artist working today, Dumas’s work is painterly, provocative
and unconventional. It it always about the human figure, using photographs of both
unknown and famous faces. Image as burden at Tate Modern in tandem with a curatorial talk and tour, meanders through a giant retrospective exhibition spanning over 30 years of her paintings and drawings.
She uses paint thinly in translucent sumptuous stains, often depicting her subjects as
vulnerable and suffering, violent or dead. Her empathetic attitude towards her figures translates through the paint in a rare tenderness and sensibility and yet the topics she covers are as heavy as coal sacks. Dumas reflects this in her book Sweet Nothings, where she uses her unique voice in the form of poetry, guiding the reader into deciphering her take on the human condition. Recurring themes of racism, the violence of sexism and apartheid persist in her work.
Working wet on wet, the colours bleed and leach, producing floating faces that often look bruised, damaged and puckered. Very real victims, supermodels, babies, rejects, assassins and lovers feature frequently and yet they are all painted directly from photographs and newspapers. Super imposed hues of chalky white, pale blue, tinged with fading magenta,
force her faces to look on detached, with a mask-like quality and a sense of misfit.