The Meaning of Drawing

Wir wollen uns lieben, aber wir wissen nicht wie
Berlin graffiti

I make a distinction between drawings
which I regard as autonomous works
of art and drawings which are ‘just
drawings’. Not that the latter are
necessarily inferior, but to me
personally they are less fraught with
meaning and hence more friendly.

These here are ‘just drawings’.
Hand and head in relaxed partnership,
susceptible to impressions received
from working with the material
(a well-tried method). In these
drawings I have not used language
(text) as a foreign or aggressive
element (as I often do); the titles
merely express the associative paths
my thoughts take, together with the
forms encountered on the way.

This kind of work keeps my circulation
going in chilly spells. They are
nonsensical works referring to
a searcher for meaning.
Chilly spells are frequent.

The surrealist tradition has become
the basis of many drawings. Without
the urge towards revolution and
madness. Or should I say, drawings
have become the cartoons of our
small dreams.
Maybe drawing should never
have become ‘art’ after all.
But just give them enough rope…


The Meaning of Drawing is a compilation of the texts The Meaning of Drawing, originally published in The Meaning of Drawing: drawings by ten Dutch Artists (cat.), Netherlands Office for fine Arts, The Hague, 1986, p.46, and The Surrealist Tradition, originally published in A Priori tekenen, Makkom, Amsterdam, 1987, p.143. It is 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.