The extraordinary potency of Marlene Dumas's best work lies in her skill at mediating and refining the original source of an image without removing any of the detail to make it somehow palatable to the viewer. Working largely from photographic imagery, found and made, she subverts the camera's fixing gaze through the subjectivity of her aesthetic eye, endowing each work with an emotional and carnal force. In Handy, for example, the baldly vulgar yet vulnerable pose of the woman is made frighteningly seductive by Dumas's loose brush strokes and hallucinatory palette. The obvious painterly-ness of the work is deliberately at odds with its unambiguously suggestive title, provocatively exploiting the inevitable sense of guilty pleasure mixed with unease and even disgust prompted in the viewer. Yet Dumas is very clear about her tactics here: the sexually explicit material she uses as bases for her painting are taken from the sleaziest, calling cards in phone boxes end of the marked: "I use all the cheap tricks of attracting attention: eyes looking at you, sexual parts exposed or deliberately covered. The primitive pull of recognition" she has said. "My art is situated between the pornographic tendency to reveal everything and the erotic inclination to hide what it's all about."
Dumas's unapologetic positioning of her work in this way underlines her profound interest in the line where public stops and private begins but also reveals a tension in the artist's own view of gender, voyeurism and the very act of painting.