Snow White II

Marlene Dumas,
Marlene Dumas, „Snow White and the Wrong Story“

The playwright Arthur Adamov recorded how an ordinary street incident first made him aware of the dramatic possibilities of mutual solitude. He saw one day two young girls passing a blind beggar on the street. As they passed arm-in-arm, oblivious off the beggar, they sang a popular song of the day. „J’ai fermé les yeux, c’était merveilleux“ (closed my eyes, it was wonderful). It’s exactly the opposite of what has always been thought dramatic. Here we have the absence of communication, the absence of human sympathy and emotion and above all, the absence of conflict.

When I think of Rembrandt and dramatic moments I think of „The offering of Isaac“ where the gesture of the hand pushing on the boy’s face is unforgettable, or „Lucretia“ with the dagger. With my own paintings, apart from a wine glass or two, or some camera’s, the characters are mostly inactive and empty handed. In most cases the drama is psychical rather than pictorial (especially in the portraits). As the potential for narrative increases by including attributes and, or action (the small boy in „Snowwhite and the Wrong Story“; the clutching of the camera in „Snowwhite and the Broken Arm“…) the paintings become more dramatic in a theatrical sense.

Marlene Dumas on Drama


Snow White

Marlene Dumas,
Marlene Dumas, „Snow White and the Broken Arm“ (1988)

No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say,
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.

Anne Sexton, „Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs“