MARLENE DUMAS, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, 2015
101 x 101 cm
Habotai silk scarf
published by Tate Modern, London, England
The tolling mentioned in the title of this work refers to funeral bells. One of the themes Marlene Dumas is interested in is death and here in the moment when death is very near to someone, and ‘therefore to us all’ as in the words of John Donne is suggested: “Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that…
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne (1572-1631)
Donne’s view has much in common with the 21st century eastern religions, stating that all people are socially and spiritually interconnected; for example, a contemporary view is demonstrated by a Buddhist reply given by the Dalai Lama, when asked during a visit to Northern Ireland how the warring Protestants and Catholics could co-exist: “Remember we are all one – all the same”. Donne seems to be saying that whatever affects one affects us all.
MARLENE DUMAS, For Whom the Bell Tolls, 2008. In this painting Marlene Dumas shows interest in emotional expressions that are often represented in cinema (and rarely in contemporary painting). For this she applied a variety of drip painting techniques and used a film still of Ingrid Bergman experiencing sorrow and mourning. The two emblematic black bird images in the eyes add an extra eery and dramatic touch to it all.