Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave

Marlene Dumas. Measuring Your Own Grave. 2003

Marlene Dumas. Measuring Your Own Grave. 2003

Oil on canvas, 55 1/8 x 55 1/8" (140 x 140 cm).
Private Collection. © 2008 Marlene Dumas

Artist, Marlene Dumas: For years I had the same studio, in the center of Amsterdam and there were some other artists in the building too. A fellow-artist friend had this canvas which he had painted this beautiful light gray. He wanted to throw it away and I said, “Give it to me,” and so when you look at that canvas you will see that the grayish, lighter area at the bottom is done with very systematic brush strokes. And they're actually not mine, they are his.

So I had this beautiful background, beautifully painted, and I wanted to have an image that fitted this canvas. So then someone else had a newspaper image of someone in this position, and because I also work in such an associative way, I thought, this image is going to stretch itself to the edges of this canvas.

And after I painted it, I thought, it is like measuring your own grave—making art is actually like measuring your own grave. The canvas is almost like a coffin for the figure, because all my figures always seem to struggle with the fact that they are paintings, -- they never breathe so well in the painterly space.

Connie Butler: Marlene Dumas often writes poetry or other texts about her paintings.

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