Marlene Dumas

A true Hedonist is hard to find

Or, what did Dolly Parton replied when asked,
‘Do you think you’ll get out of showbusiness and just do God’s work?’
‘Well, God and I have a great relationship, we both see other people.’

I was always concerned about what God would want me to do.
I always wondered if art was good enough for God and if so,
what subject matter would be worth pursuing. I knew sexy was low,
erotic a bit higher and sorrow the noblest.

I was told that I belonged to the Western, European tradition, a tradition
imbued with the Christian notion that human life is a fall from grace.

I was told that Oriental and African erotica sprang from a source
so different and alien that I would not understand it.

But why on earth should I instinctively prefer the Greeks to the Columbians?
Why should I prefer the Great American Nude to the early Taoist love
manuals and why am I supposed to feel closer to Leda and the Swan than
to the Japanese shunga?

I now believe that if I could combine the hedonism of Matisse with the
eroticism of Picasso I’d be a happy woman. However, if I could add the
divine sensuality of the Hindu temple goddesses of India, I’d be in heaven.

A true Hedonist is hard to find. Originally published in Marlene Dumas, M.D., (cat.) MUKHA | Camden Arts Center | Henie Onstadt Kunstsenter, Antwerpen | London | Høvikodden, 1999; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.