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Marlene Dumas (b. 1953)
Marlene Dumas (b. 1953)

Wet Dreams

Marlene Dumas (b. 1953)
Wet Dreams
titled 'wet dreams' (on the reverse), signed and dated 'M Dumas '87' (on the stretcher bar)
oil on canvas
43¼ x 51¼ in. (110 x 130 cm.)
Painted in 1987.
Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam
D. van den Boogerd, B. Bloom and M. Casadio, Marlene Dumas, London 1999, p. 99 (illustrated in color).
Kunsthalle Bern, The Question of Human Pink, July-August 1989.

Lot Essay

Marlene Dumas uses the human figure as a means of prompting a sense of psychology and/or a specific state of mind in the viewer. Often ambiguous or deliberately vague, her finely crafted paintings try to unnerve the viewer and encourage him or her to reinvestigate the parameters of their preconceptions and the interpretative language they use to understand the world. Toward this end, Dumas often incorporates language into her work through both her use of titles and in poetic form within the works themselves. Her particularly adept use of language is often employed in such a way as to create a discord between the image and the word, a discord that generates a gap between image and meaning. This is a consciously created space that allows for all sorts of doubts and questions to arise and which encourages the viewer to project his or her own personal values onto the image given. The almost anonymous style of her painting, confident, clear, but subservient to the image also encourages this form of projection.
To help create this sense of distance between image and reality, Dumas often uses polaroids and other photographs culled from mass media as her source material. These photographic images are distilled, altered and strengthened through the process of painting into an image that is clearly removed from reality but which also maintains in a strong sense of objectivity. In Wet Dreams the image of a man Narcissus-like looking into a reflective pool seems to evoke the same elements and questions about reality. The title of the work is deliberately provocative and to a degree humorous, being both a literal description of the paintings subject matter and a prompt at any number of possible psychological and sexual speculations on the inner thoughts of both the man depicted in the painting and the viewer looking at it.

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