Marlene Dumas

Dutch Art?

For me the questions are:

Why be placed, and why allow myself to be placed in an exhibition of Dutch Art in Paris, when I do not see myself as a Dutch Artist? Why do I live in Holland (for almost 18 years now) since 5 years with a Dutch passport, and not see myself as Dutch? And why participate in group-shows, if one does not form a group. Because I am scared, I’m a coward, I’m an opportunist and I’m lonely.

Thinking about myself in a Dutch context cannot be done without thinking about South Africa. Now, that is enough to make one sick, which is just what I am at the moment! I am grateful that the Dutch took me in. It gave me a place to rest, like a psychiatric couch on which to lay comfortable, while one’s nightmares are exposed. It’s socio-political system has been good to me as an artist, and as a woman. South Africa though remains my cruel muse and judge, which like the Christian God cannot be appeased. While the Dutch take my hand and tell me I’m ok. Holland allowed me to paint, because they believe in painting.

I could say – South Africa is my content and Holland is my form, but then, the images I deal with are familiar to almost everyone, everywhere. I deal with second-hand images and first-hand experiences. (My ‘models’ have all already modelled for someone else. There ain’t no virgins here.) And my medium is ancient too. Through art nothing gets solved, so everything remains relevant. ‘Contemporary’ issues are older than time – the body, the other, trans-cultural objects, placelessness, flatness, the sexual organs of the snail, everything is related.

I don’t know much about geography but I know that for me French art is still BB: Brigitte Bardot, Buren, Boltansky and Bustamante.

Dutch Art? First published Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, first edition Galerie Paul Andriesse and De Balie Publishers Amsterdam, 1998; and second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014 [written for a panel discussion on Dutch art held during the exhibition Du concept à l’image, Art des Pays Bas au XXème Siècle, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1994].