Dumas hornsandtail

This exhibition brings together the work of painter Marlene Dumas (b.1953, Capetown, SA) and photographer Anton Corbijn (b.1955, Strijen, Netherlands) for the first time, under the title Strippinggirls. 

Both artists share a fascination for the glamorous world of photographic models, musicians and other artists, and find their inspiration in dancers in striptease bars or a paid stripper plying her trade for a fee in any living room. Strippinggirls is more than a direct translation of an erotic thrill into paint or print by a remote observer. The strippers and the situations are starting points, and provide the rough basic material for the work of the painter and the photographer.

Marlene Dumas’ work hardly needs any introduction. Her paintings and drawings deal with femininity and the woman’s role in society as a pin-up girl, as a primal mother, as an object of lust or Mary Magdalen. The figures in her paintings are very intense and often focus on sensitive subjects. Anton Corbijn is a well-known photographer, designer and video director who has worked mainly with pop stars, actors and supermodels. Both have successful and eventful careers behind them. Together with curator Christianne van Lomm they thought up the Strippinggirls project in 1998, which then increasingly took shape as the months passed. While Dumas’ most important question concerns the relationship between guilt and innocence, Corbijn tends to emphasise the problem of voyeurism and especially the expectations that the voyeur creates for himself. Marlene Dumas used Polaroid photographs as a basis for painting; they help to create the field of tension between objective reality and her subjective expression. Anton Corbijn’s starting point is stark reality. He is completely fascinated by the attraction of the striptease or peepshow as a freak show. Using the computer he touches up certain photographs in a way that is barely noticeable. It is only when the observer looks again and more closely, that certain bizarre ‘abnormalities’ become evident. However, in another series Corbijn links words and images, resulting in ambiguous meanings. It was not the intention of either Marlene Dumas or Anton Corbijn that one art form should dominate the other. Their love for each other’s art is too great for that. Their only aim was to create a dialogue and to communicate what fascinates them both: the human - female body in all its potential.

Catalogue text Anton Corbijn

Sex sells, but that was not the motivation. After shooting (mostly) male musicians for 25 years, I was looking for a way to have some fun and make progress in some other kind of direction at the same time. Hooking up with Marlene was just that. Fun and interesting. Once we settled on the idea of strippers as a subject for both of us to work on, we went out to lots of clubs to find the girls willing to participate and worked on this for a few hours every couple of months from October 1998. I was determined NOT to make a journalistic, documentary kind of photography. Nor was I out to create glamorous images - there are already so many around. Instead I wanted to try out some new things that I have been playing with recently and I figured that some would go quite well with this project. First the idea that striptease could have some of the attraction for people that the old freak shows used to have. I ended up using computer manipulation - making tiny changes so that you really gave to look for them, close-up like in a peepshow. Then the 4-letter words; in England these usually gave sexual connotations, so I used 4-letter words for feelings that the strippers might gave rather than the viewers, albeit a little ambiguously. Next were the very normal portrait photos of 5 girls, shot outdoors in Amsterdam; displaying the information regarding their profession might make you look at them differently. No discussion was intended about comparisons between painting and photography - I personally was merely interested to see how someone else tackles the same subject, under the same circumstances, albeit with different tools. The main difference in working seems to be that I struggle more at the start of the project (the shoot) and Marlene more in the latter phase of it (the actual painting). That is a pretty mundane observation which would seem obvious from the start anyway. Shooting next to Marlene brought out some anxieties - when looking at her polaroid’s I was sure her way of shooting was far superior to mine, which was an interesting aspect I discovered in myself - I am worried about comparisons in the same discipline but not at all in a different medium. This kind of unease never lasted long, it was my uncertainty as it concerned shooting a subject unknown to me, a contrast with my day work. I adore Marlene’s work and would swap my photographs for her paintings any time, but not because I necessarily think they would be better or compare them that way with my work, it is just because I love painting, and I believe that deep down I am a frustrated painter. The only envy there is one which is based on the freedom in time, the delay of a decisive moment, and the independence from reality that Marlene has to create. But if anything I think that this project brought me (as a person) closer to my own work. ANTON CORBIJN, February 2000

Catalogue Text Marlene Dumas Live Acts, Silent Studios

Now that it’s over, I want to start It’s hard for me to work next to and with someone whose work I like. Not that it’s not exciting. Although I work alone and with printed matter as my models. I’ve always been attracted to photographers who work among real people. But it doesn’t seem to bring out the best in me. It’s the same with live models (whatever their occupation). I worry about what they think of me and I get even more worried about what they think, I think of them. And then I lose the freedom of the amoral touch which for me is a prerequisite for making a good painting. The naked truth The public display of nudity has always been one of my main artistic interests, as well as the reasons given to justify or banish it. The traditional (male) painter uses it to promote higher aesthetic values, the fashion model to promote clothes, the porn industry to promote masturbation, while film stars only do it if it’s part of the story. Most people don’t do it at all… and the teaser makes you beg for it. A slow hand While in life teasing is experienced as a bad deal flirtation, leaving you angry and frustrated, as an art form it has given us the striptease. You enter the theatre of seduction. You pay for this pleasure to quiver with anticipation. You stick to the rules. Strippers might stretch rules, you don’t. You have to known your place. You have come, so that she can make you wait. In our fast forward culture, they say that we’ve traded the tease for the strip, magic for illusion, glamour for humour. Yet a really good strip is never fun(ny). It’s hard to find, but when you do, you don’t laugh. You shiver, a memory of ancient origin. Salome’s erotic dance drove the king to give her whatever she asked for’. When the seventh veil fell, after all was said and done, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. A Bible story showing the power of desire. Not love, but desire. Did I and Anton look at strippinggirls in a similar manner? I am the sister and he is the son of a preacher man. Strippinggirls Neither he nor I chose to show dangerous dancing women intending to do you harm. He is even more kind in his manner (but then he’s no women). His gold framed peepshows are playful, not mean. He is used to working with people with professions and with clothes on. My painted figures of the imagination are mostly naked, without accessories or actions giving clues to what they do, have done or would do. With this project the opposite is true. Small differences make big problems for painters. The figures in most of my work don’t even have feet to stand on. Now I had to paint boots and platform shoes to show that they are doing their job. They undress to be in control. They are more shy with their clothes on, than off. Anton and I are both known for stripping people. We both do portraiture. If it is true, then it’s not so much about exposing roles, or making the rich look dirty or the famous ordinary - it’s a stripping down to that melancholy sex appeal that makes surnames disappear and first names fictional. MARLENE DUMAS February 2000

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