- Marlene Dumas
signed, titled and dated 1996
ink, wash and gouache on paper
- 65 by 50cm.; 25 5/8 by 19 5/8 in.
Private Collection, Switzerland
Acquired by the above directly from the artist
In this extraordinary portrait of a young girl, the title 'Suspicion' conveys the essence of this ambiguous and strangely harrowing figure. At first glance she appears young, childlike, yet her glaring accusatory eyes lock with the viewers' with an alarming maturity and her parted lips evoke a subtle eroticism. This paradox instantly engages the viewer and urges them to look further. Dumas has said of her art: "..I'm interested in the politics of ambiguity, illusion, the politics of painting and deception." (Marlene Dumas quoted in: Marlene Dumas, Suspect, Italy 2003, p. 20)
There is a sophistication in Dumas' portraits that is conveyed through the simplicity of execution. The girl's features are worked lightly, making her skin appear transparent, contrasting with the jet black of her hair and the blackness of her piercing eyes. The enlargement of her head swallows up almost the entirety of the picture plane, thus, as is the desired effect in so many of Dumas' female portraits from the mid 1990's, renouncing all social context and increasing the sense of abstraction. The figure is anonymous yet the artist wants us to explore her as an individual in her isolation. What we see, however, does not draw us to one particular conclusion. There is much more that lies beyond the composition. An element of suspense and tension remains therefore, as any kind of recognition seems blurred with there being little with which the viewer can relate.
As with Dumas' group of works entitled Female produced in 1992/3, which consist of a series of watercolours of models extracted from photographs and magazines, Dumas explains: "I find them (the models) all equally strange, and I find all human beings equally scary [...] What interested me was how the subjects looked at the camera [...] and what different people could and would read into them." (Marlene Dumas cited in: Dominic can den Boogerd, Barbara Bloom, Mariuccia Casadio, (Eds.) Marlene Dumas, New York/London/Paris/Berlin 2004, p.24.) The only clues we have as to the girl's background rely on the figure's vague Asian ethnicity, rarely seen in Dumas' large range of female subjects, and the implications of the title. The rest is for the viewer's imagination to explore