Caroline Dukes first studied art in Budapest, Hungary, under a communist regime that she remembers allowed only for social realist images. Initially her art practice was a rebellion against her former indoctrination in Hungary. In the early 1970s following her nudes series, existential philosophy and literature became the influence of her work. Her Interior series suggested alienation, and the effect of science and technology on society and on the individual. The work titled Utopia depicting human cloning was described by Dale Amundson in 1983 in terms of the isolation of the figures: "Suspended in time and locked into unreal space, their timelessness and unreality render them impotent, incapable of any action on their own behalf and without the ability to engender emotion of a human kind in those who would try to enter the shallow stage upon which they play their parts." Her work went through several transformations through the years. In the Landscape series spirituality enter the work emphasizing light and atmosphere. Hills and trees were hazily identifiable through a mesh of violent strokes of colour. The following works focussed primarily on architecture, retaining the marks of her previous landscape series. The series At the Focus of Forces (1989) revolves specifically around scenes of Jerusalem, defying the apparent solidity of the architecture with brushstrokes of acrylic and dense use of charcoal. Dukes commented on her interest in Jerusalem in 1990, saying "there layers of civilizations have evolved, and the supernatural energy or force of the land has fundamentally affected the people over centuries. The eerie quality of ancient stones, structures and ruins is intensified by the contrast between light and shade and by the confusion and intensity of colours and cultures. Despite its turbulent history, the place emanates an aura of spirituality and peace. I am interested in how all of these physical elements interact with its diversified society and ideologies." In 1996 Dukes created the intensely personal Remember . . . Relate . . . Retell, a multi-media work that includes works on paper, photographs, text, ready-made objects, video, audio, and constructions. The work is a journey through her own memory and the recovery of memory using hypnosis sessions. She weaves a story of her own childhood and connections to her father, whose early death and then recent death of her mother triggered the making of the work. At the same time the exploration of death when she was young provokes a work called And They Made Us March, a reference to an event connected with her mother during the Holocaust. The following series was titled Cities (1998) in some ways a return to her earlier preoccupation with architecture, this time in three different historically and politically significant cities of Europe and the Middle East: Budapest, Munich and Jerusalem. Claudine Majzels has described this series as "a testament to her stamina, survival, and endurance, evidenced by the scale of these works and their powerful gestures. She bears witness to the tragic annihilation and dislocation of the centuries and asks the mournful question, 'What have we built?'" (1998).
Sponsor: Schwartz/Reisman Centre