Juliette Dumas, ‘Whale Fluke (Le Grand Bleu)’, 2018, SILAS VON MORISSE gallery

This painting is a Life Size of a Whale Fluke and part of the exhibition ANGELS which portrays a species that was present on Earth 30 million years before us. They travel 16,000 miles every year, continuously swimming with half of their brain asleep while the other half is awake, all the while making sonic maps of the ocean floor. The generic name Megaptera (from the Greek mega-/μεγα- "giant" and ptera/πτερα "wing"), refers to their large front flippers. Each individual has specific scars and markings on their fluke (tail) resulting from attacks by predators, fishing gear entanglements, boat collisions, and the continuous thrashing through water.

For this series, Dumas prepares her surfaces with clay on paper mounted on canvas, allowing her to scratch into the layers, drawing by subtraction into the fresh “skin” of the painting. She then runs water over it, letting the process of erosion edit by destroying some of the work.

DUMAS (French, b. 1987 in Paris France; lives and works in Brooklyn NY) completed her BA at Villa Arson in Nice France and her MFA at School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 2013. She has been awarded artist residencies at Festival Grandeur Nature, Ristolas, France in 2009 and La Station, Nice in 2015. She was nominated for Clare Rosen & Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists by the Painting and Drawing Department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dumas' work was featured in notable group and solo exhibitions including “Winter Studies” (2015), Kunstverein Gaestezimmer E.V, Stuttgart, Germany (Curated by Alf Setzer); “Ad Hoc”(2015), La Station, Nice, France (curated by Collectif Culbuto).

Dumas subscribes to the terms of The “Rio Negro Manifesto” created in 1978 by the French art critic Pierre Restany who drafted a manifesto along with two artists, the Brazilian (born in Poland) Frans Krajcberg, and the Yugoslav based in Brazil Sepp Baendereck.

MANIFESTE DU RIO NEGRO (Restany / Krajcberg / Baendereck), 1978


In 1978, the three men traveled along the Rio Negro River, an affluent of the Amazon River that runs through sections of Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, along the Amazon ecosystem. That extraordinary expedition triggered a profound stream of consciousness in them on the urgency of defending the Amazon and combine ethics with esthetics in art. That deep feeling gave birth to a rallying call in defense of art that is “naturalistic, essentialist and fundamental,” as opposed to the “realism” and “chaos” of contemporary art. After the expedition and on behalf of the group, Restany wrote the “”Manifeste du Naturalisme or “Manifeste du Rio Negro”, cosigned by the other 2 artists.

The “Manifesto” yearns for a return from thinking and perception to a condition of “original nature”that defines naturalism as a discipline of perceptive and planetary consciousness, a return to the “occult meaning of things,” all in the service of the imagination and sensitivity. The group’s point of departure was a concept of art opposed to the “tyranny of the object” and to “highly materialistic” ambitions. Instead, it favored the deconstruction of the art object and a concern for human destiny, beyond the ecological perspectives of that period.

Image rights: © Juliette Dumas, courtesy Silas von Morisse Gallery

About Juliette Dumas