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The Hayward Gallery's show proves that figurative painting never really died. These artists have adopted the tactics of photographers to surpass them

By Ben Lewis   December 2007

Marlene Dumas’s triptych (below, right) showing the blindfolded heads of arrested Palestinians delivers an old-fashioned oil paint whammy: the energetic brushwork, rich tones and urgent subject matter make for a painting as beautiful as it is horrifying. The masterful South Africa-born painter deploys a lurid palette to evoke harsh lighting, and her crude brushwork—swabs of paint conjure up the blindfolds—becomes a metaphor for the violence she depicts. Standing in front of these iconic images, derived from the rolling news channels of our day, it is difficult to imagine figurative painting ever “went away.”

But it did. Remember the exhilarating feeling…

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