Francesco Dama reviews Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden at Tate Modern, London, on view through May 10, 2015.
Dama writes: "Dumas never paints from life. She would rather work from photographs, images cut from magazines or newspapers, postcards, reproductions of artworks from every period and style... the [recent Luc Tuymans] case draws attention, once again, to the relationship between figurative painting and its source. Is a painting based on a preexisting image different from that image? The legal issue shifts towards ontology. Dumas seems to answer the question by shifting the emphasis to how we perceive painted images. She feeds her empty canvases with the visual material she carefully collects, turning them into images that are more ambiguous and therefore more powerful. Her works are based on the complex structures that rule our visual culture. She uses images that represent 'difficult' themes such as violence, sex, and religion, not to provoke viewers but to force them to process the distance between the originals and her paintings."