Emerging in the 1990s as one of the most prominent European painters, Marlene Dumas's expressive paintings and ink-wash drawings have been placed within the lineage of Expressionism and compared to the art of Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, and Francis Bacon. Her paintings have consistently dealt with eroticism through her dynamic, vital and overtly sexual subjects.
Whereas pornography presumes that anything can be shown, art prefers to veil things; this is the distinguishing character of eroticism. Dumas states, "My art is situated between the pornographic tendency to reveal everything and the erotic inclination to hide what it's all about." Unwanted Attention, 2002 captures this sentiment perfectly: it channels the tradition of the female nude that has proliferated throughout the art historical canon, but modestly covers any overt representation of genitalia.
Despite the distance and objectivity of the camera's gaze, the artist transforms these images through the subjectivity of her aesthetic eye, endowing each work with an emotional force and carnal immediacy. Dumas achieves this through a number of ways in Unwanted Attention, where she renders the androgynous, pre-pubescent girl against a stark white non-background. Pushed up against the picture plane and frontally posed, the figure confronts the viewer like in slap in the face. Her nakedness is particularly revealing given her youth and ambiguous gender; her shyness is visceral, translating acutely into the mindset of the viewer. She manifests a markedly erotic approach to painting through the tactility of her brushwork, the sensuality of her tones and the surface scratches and smears that lend a liveliness of texture.