Marlene Dumas

Never say Never 
or One Drawing too Many

Serial Killers
I am never going to make a series of heads again, or for that matter a group of similar yet different things placed next to or (too) close to one another. It is effective – it’s not just drawing, it’s an installation. You are not just facing one image in front of you, you are surrounded. You stand among them. But while it is effective, it is irritating at the same time. You cannot look at just one, without the others bothering you with their indifferences. As in a neurotic (not erotic) movie, the ex-husband always turns up to remind you that he’s just as good as (or in American films – always better than) the love of the moment. So whoever she chooses – it leaves a sense of incompleteness, always the awareness that there is more than one. It’s not that less is a bore, but more is not enough.

Miss Europe goes to America
This is the first time my Models are to be shown in America. Among other things, they speak about how to make a beautiful drawing of beautiful subject matter. As drawings they are refined, delicate, direct and immediate. As subjects my source material has crossed many centuries. I like to travel in time, to tear out pictures and make them mine, to take other people’s muses and make them mine. The spirit of their former master and mistress still linger among them, but now these ghosts are mine. They represent a type of European rather than American stream of consciousness. I do Bardot and not Monroe.

One more time
A drawing is much faster than a fashion shoot. You don’t need a room full of hairdressers, stylists and make-up artists. You do it all alone. You don’t even need the model either. Rejects are not pictures of injured bodies or battered wives, although the rough and careless handling they have suffered gives them an ‘abused’ touch. They are about my conflicting attitudes towards drawing and I do have a tendency to want to destroy what I’ve made. To me this comes more naturally than adhering to a consciously controlled system, so in this sense Rejects are easy and Models difficult (Models are closer to Robert Ryman and Rejects to Arnulf Rainer – if these gentlemen can forgive these skin-deep comparisons). I am forever torn between wanting a clear simple form that aspires to stand up forever and a reasonless disappearance into formlessness. Rejects enjoy the irresponsible freedom of constantly changing one’s mind. No Reject becomes a Model, but every Model fears rejection.

Never say Never or One Drawing too Many. Selected fragments from Marlene Dumas: One hundred Models and Endless Rejects, (cat.), Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston | Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2001; included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014 [under 2000 instead of 2001].