Monday, 30 May 2011

Tracey Emin tells it how it is at the Hayward

Tracey Emin is so self-absorbed it’s a wonder she hasn’t disappeared up her own vulva – the organ excessively exposed both in image and word in the artist’s retrospective Tracey Emin: Love Is What You Want which runs at London’s Hayward Gallery until August 29th.
The show doesn’t begin to answer whether Emin is any good. But then the question may be superfluous. The artist is a late 20th-early 21st century phenomenon. Her work is inseparable from her life and a mirror of the fucked up world in which we live. The exhibition is not to be missed.
Emin arrived with Charles Saatchi’s Sensation show at the Royal Academy in 1997. Since then she has attracted all the symbols of a successful artist – Royal Academician, UK representative at a Venice Biennale, celebrity friendships with the likes of Kate Moss and Elton John, an Edinburgh retrospective and now the Hayward show (supported by luxury brand group Louis Vuitton).
Yet loss and rejection remain enduring themes in her work. You don’t have to buy into ever scribble, every pile of arranged junk and yet still be touched by her raw emotion.
“I don’t expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone” reads an Emin patchwork quilt from 2002. And now aged 47 and menopausal, she remains as needy as she ever was.
Tracey from Margate got messed up mentally and physically. Rape, underage sex, and two abortions balanced in part by affection for her family seem to have driven her early years. Her later work at first seems more muted but the words in her monochrome blankets show the hurt remains.
The show brings together Emin’s output in a wide range of media including painting, textiles, drawing, photography, neon, film, and her latest venture into sculpture. Probably she spreads herself too thinly.
Emin says she will go on making art until she drops so there is plenty of time for her to find new ways of addressing her demons. Otherwise she will continue to be recognised for her My Bed installation which Charles Saatchi chose not to lend the exhibition and her appliqued tent Everyone I have ever slept with which was destroyed in a warehouse fire.
Unlike crusty art critic Brian Sewell, as a man I didn’t feel I was an “uninvolved outsider”; after all love is what I want too. But neither did I recognise the claim made for Emin that her work “resonates with the ‘personal is political’ legacy of feminist art” in which case Frida Kahlo did it a lot better. Emin is a one-off.
Ticket admission is £12 ($19.75) – which unfortunately seems about standard for a major exhibition, which this is one.

1 comment:

  1. A film was made about Frida Kahlo. I wonder if there will be a film on Tracy Emin?

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