Dumas explores the formal properties and inherent meaning of forms of Nature. Drawing on historical precedents such as paleolithic paintings and Cézanne’s studies of the Montagne Sainte Victoire, her paintings are a study of the language of Nature, an attempt to understand an experience other than human.
Dumas subscribes to the terms of the Rio Negro Manifesto: “Integral Naturalism seeks to better understand the mysteries of Nature.(...) To practice this availability in relation to the natural given is to admit the modesty of human perception and its limits, in relation to a whole which is an end in itself.(...) Integral Naturalism is not only a militant attitude but also a spur for thought. (...). (It) calls for "the expression of a planetary consciousness”. (Restany and Krajcberg, 1978, 2013).
The paintings in the exhibition portray 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.