Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave

Marlene Dumas. Moshekwa. 2006

Marlene Dumas. Moshekwa. 2006

Oil on canvas, 51 3/16 x 43 5/16" (130 x 110 cm). Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp. © 2008 Marlene Dumas Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

CONNIE BUTLER: This is a painting of Moshewka Langa, a South African artist and a friend of Marlene Dumas.

MARLENE DUMAS: One of the questions that I have been asked is: Is it easier when you paint a picture of someone you know or someone you don't know? In a sense, there is no real difference for me.

But when you use someone you do know, like Moshekwa, that also helps you make your choice about color, for example. Because, Moshekwa is a very dark South African artist. I've never painted the South African landscape but maybe in a way, I try to paint the South African landscape and the skies also through the face of Moshekwa. I want to give him a blue forehead, because I want to give him the night sky.

It's not only images, but it is also the things people say that can actually inspire me to do something. And Moshekwa once said: "So many things have happened to me, around me, and away from me. I do not remember them sequentially, I recollect certain things. But I have no memory. At least, not in the conventional sense."

I do believe that the essence of life is mysterious, so I am not trying to categorize and to define something in a sort of static way. I want it to breathe, so when I hear Moshekwa express himself like that, I understand what he means.

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