The teeth, stained with lipstick, are grinded, in tension, it is almost possible to hear the noise of shrilling. The lips, curled in a grimace, define in a confused way a face of a woman with very sharp features. The eyes, weighed down by an eyeshadow, the unmade makeup of a long night, are closed, but full of tension and melancholy. Teeth by Marlene Dumas with this painting of few and decisive brushstrokes, is an effective synthesis of her practice, where emotionality and gestures are closely connected.

The oil painting, of small dimensions, is part of a series of studies that the artist makes around  the representation of human body that includes contrasting aspects and feelings, violence and tenderness, melancholy and vital impulse. The body, male or female, is represented in moments of intimacy and vulnerability, as to free, in lines and color, emotion, passion, rage, without sacrificing the poetic aspect.

The artist speaks of a “terrible beauty” to synthesize the vision of a practice that seeks to describe the human condition in the constant passage of life and death. The face of Teeth, effigy of this contradiction and substantial element, assumes the evocative and dazzling charge reaching lyrical tones: the energy of the colors and the traces of the brushstrokes that form the features of this woman are charged with emotions and narratives, which the viewers can welcome and read with their own sensitivity. Behind this face, the colours and the pictorial gestures, stories of love and passion are built: Dumas’ fierce and vital painting represents intimacy and human sensitivity using the body, now rediscovered as form and colour.

Theet, is part of Open-end, the solo show of Marlene Dumas curated by Caroline Bourgeois and on view at Palazzo Grassi in Venice. The exhibition will be visible until the 8th of January 2023.


Marlene Dumas
Teeth, 2018
Oil on Canvas, 40x30cm
Private collection, Madrid
Ph: Kerry McFate, New York
© Marlene Dumas