Marlene Dumas

The Aim of my Work

A title determines the way one looks at the image. What is depicted is desire, what is central is deficiency. It all becomes more complex.The aim of my work, I have come to believe, has always been to arouse in my audience (as well as myself) an experience of empathy with my subject matter (be it a scribble, a sentence, or a face) more so than sympathy. Sympathy suggests an agreement of temperament, and an emotional indentification with a person. Empathy doesn’t necessarily demand that. The contemplation of the work (when it ‘works’) gives a physical sensation similar to that suggested by the work. I’m not a stylist, I’m a sensualist.

The Aim of my Work. First published in Marlene Dumas. The Eyes of the Night Creatures, (cat.), Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam, 1985; and included in 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 [The Aim of my WorkA Title and My best Works are quotations from a text by Paul Andriesse, taken from a conversation between the author and the artist].