Marlene Dumas

Live Acts. Silent Studios.

Marlene Dumas on Anton Corbijn

Now that it’s over I want to start.
It’s hard for me to work next to and with someone whose work I like,
not that it’s not exciting. Although I work alone and with printed matter as my models, I’ve always been attracted to photographers who work with real people. But it doesn’t seem to bring out the best in me. It’s the same with live models (whatever their occupation). I worry about what they think of me and I get even more worried about what they think, I think of them.
And then I lose the freedom of the amoral touch which for me is requisite for making good painting.

The naked Truth
The public display of nudity has always been one of my main artistic interests, as well as the reasons given to justify or banish it.
The traditional (male) painter uses it to promote higher aesthetic values, the fashion model to promote clothes, the porn industry to promote masturbation, while film stars only do it if it’s part of the story.
Most people don’t do it at all …
And the teaser makes you beg for it.

A Slow Hand
While in life teasing is experienced as a bad deal flirtation, leaving you angry and frustrated, as an art form it has given us the striptease.
You enter the theatre of seduction. You pay for this pleasure of quivering with anticipation. You stick to the rules. Strippers might stretch rules, you don’t.
You have to know your place.
You have to come, so that she can make you wait.
In our fast forward culture, they say that we’ve traded the tease for the strip, magic for illusion, glamour for humour.

Yet a really good strip is never fun(ny).
It’s hard to find, but when you do, you don’t laugh.
You shiver, a memory of ancient origin. Salomé’s erotic dance drove the king to give her whatever she asked. When the seventh veil fell, after all was said and done, she asked for the head of John the Baptist: a Bible story showing the power of desire. Not love, but desire. Do Anton and I look at girls stripping in a similar manner? I am the sister and he is the son of a preacher man.

Neither he nor I choose to show dangerous dancing women intending to do you harm. He is even more kind in his manner (but then he’s no woman). His gold framed peepshows are playful, not mean. He is used to working with people with professions and with clothes on. My painted figures of the imagination are mostly naked, without accessories or actions giving clues to what they do, have done or would do. With his project the opposite is true. Small differences make big problems for painters. The figures in most of my work don’t even have feet to stand on so I had to paint boots and platform shoes to show that they are doing their job. They undress to be in control. They are more shy with their clothes on, than off.

Anton and I are both known for stripping people. We both do portraiture. If it is true, then it’s not so much about exposing roles, or making the rich look dirty or the famous ordinary. It’s a stripping down to that melancholy sex appeal that makes surnames disappear and first names fictional.

Anton Corbijn | Live Acts. Silent Studios. Originally published in Anton Corbijn | Marlene Dumas | strippinggirls, (cat.), Stichting Actuele Kunstdocumentatie, 2000; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts | On Others, second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.