Marlene Dumas’s work is currently on view as part of the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kochi, India. A recent series of twenty small-scale watercolors collectively titled Vocabulary (2018) is inspired by the eroticism of Indian miniature paintings. Depicting creatures including a snake, a snail, a bird, and a cricket, human features such as an eye and lips, kissing figures, and a body modeled after the Venus of Willendorf sculpture, the series portrays its subjects in physically and emotionally primal conditions. Dumas describes this series of "small, inconsequential moments, objects and beings" as an attempt to "quieten our personal demons as well as those of the world around us."
Curated by Indian artist Anita Dube and titled Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life, this year’s edition of the biennial has been conceived in a spirit of ongoing, decentralized collaboration. "At the heart of my curatorial adventure lies a desire for liberation and comradeship,” Dube states, "where the possibilities for a non-alienated life could spill into a ‘politics of friendship.’" Focused on portraying the human form, Dumas’s work probes the complexities of identity and representation, exploring the ambiguous boundaries between public and private.
"While the fourth edition [of the biennial] will go down as one with many firsts," Priyadershini S writes in The Hindu, "what I am most excited about is KMB’s first female curator, Delhi-based Anita Dube, and the fact that over 50% of participating artists are women, making it the majoritarian voice.… Some of the headliners are Austrian artist Valie Export with her radical body art, South African Marlene Dumas … and Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera."
Dumas is also the subject of an extensive interview in the current issue of 032c magazine. Titled "Things Fall Together and You Could Maybe Call It Grace"—a phrase the artist once used to describe how she discovered herself through her practice—the article features Dumas in conversation with curator and critic Hans Ulrich Obrist and the fashion designer Virgil Abloh. "I never do something just for the politics," the artist says of her ongoing Great Men portrait series, which includes figures such as James Baldwin, Derek Jarman, and Alan Turing and evolves according to where it is exhibited. Dumas also talks about her Venus & Adonis illustrations which were presented in the solo exhibition Myths & Mortals at David Zwirner New York in 2018, as well as her public art projects, such as the altarpiece she created for St. Anne’s Church in Dresden in 2017. Asked, in conclusion, what her advice to young artists would be, Dumas answers, "Fall in love! With whomever or whatever."
Image: Marlene Dumas, Vocabulary, 2018 (detail)