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Tracey Emin: Love Is What You Want

Now showing at the Hayward Gallery in London until 29 August, Tracey Emin’s new show is all about love or so she says! This exhibition covers every period of her career including some works seldom seen. There are some new sculptures made especially for the Hayward Gallery.
A frank confessional approach to her work is tinged with anguish, degradation and anger coming from a deeper place, a place of frustration and irony. It is as if she plays with the notion of love and all that it involves whether it is self-love, the love of another, family love and so on. When it comes to her own love life she makes work so explicit and in your face that it is hard to ignore it. It has such an impact and it is because of this Emin has become a house hold name. Her work has created a lot of dialogue and she is one of the most talked about British contemporary artists today.
The work and life of Tracey Emin have become, as some would suggest, a bit of a soap opera with much of the coverage in the press and media giving her the attention she desperately seeks, or so it seems? Through her narrative she tells us of abortions, being raped, dropping out of school at 15 and spending her time drinking cider on the beach. Then saying she had the best sex ever with all and sundry in Margate the place of her birth.
It is a show full of sexually explicit works it is hard to ignore the fact that Emin can and does resonate with lots of people. Through her lines of enquiry is she being brave and poignant transferring her experiences of feminine expression of dark and very real fears? For example in her work of 2002 I Do Not Expect To Be A Mother But I Do Expect to Die Alone she shares some of her innermost fears with the world making her undeniably an artist so willing to give of herself. Yet on the other hand once she started the ball rolling of this self-absorption she found it very hard to stop so in effect had to keep going. A good marketing ploy or what?
So where will Tracey Emin go from here? Having just viewed her latest interview on Sky Arts talking as candidly as ever to Laurie Taylor (watch it below). The latest episode in Tracey’s life is that of the recent death of her father, crying, she offers the audience an insight into her next set of plans, to make work about him. While we wait for the next chapter in the Tracey Emin soap opera, she’s busy doing the rounds at parties, VIP meetings, fashion shows, sailing around the South of France where she now has a house and where she mingles with the “it crowd” – the life of an artist has changed considerably. Has she done it all for love?

Posted by author: Rhonda
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12 thoughts on “Tracey Emin: Love Is What You Want

  • Go Tracey; she makes works that are unashamedly and authentically of her lived life, with the means she has to hand.
    I would imagine she must have been inspirational for some female artists that have come after her.
    She certainly inspired me to contribute to the OCA forums; tangentially, which is perhaps always the best way to be influenced. ‘ }

  • it does seem to me that there is a change happening with Emin’s work of late. This is to be expected, no one should remain the same for too long but in her case it is quite fundamental and quite fascinating. Until fairly recently Tracy Emin and the the pieces she made were, it seems to me, part of a single artwork whole and indivisible. Of late and for what reason I am not yet sure, there seems to have come a separation and now we have Tracy Emin, artist, making work that is about being the Tracy Emin that was and is no longer part of the work. I was and remain a great admirer of her work but I have often wondered if her earlier work, that which she was so much a part of, will make as much sense without her as it does (did?) with her. The work she is making now, however personal is more separated from her physical presence, is more about being a woman in the early 21stC rather tan being part of the art-work ‘Tracy Emin’ and may have a greater longevity and may also help to mediate the earlier work to generations who could not experience the whole thing.

  • The thing I still find difficult to understand is why Tracy Emin provokes such waves of controversy. It seems people are sitting in judgement of her and her life, (and seeking to distance themselves from it), rather than looking at her work in its context.
    I think this could be a problem with the idea of art as a creative expression of the individual – if you look at it from that point of view – some types of criticism of art become interchangeable with criticism of the artist as a person.
    Maybe if you see the art as a reflection of society then you can see the art in the context of that society and of art history – and the artist in a relationship with those things, then the individual artist isn’t so much a target for people’s prejudices (for want of a better word)
    The benefit of that is that then we could all get on with our work without fear of bringing down an onslaught of criticism and judgemental attitudes which are based on our individual circumstances or personalities rather than the quality of our work itself.
    I love her quilts anyway.
    “She went out like a 40watt bulb”

  • I think any art work, of its time, has the potential to be read as a challenge to any particular viewer’s ideas about art, the politics of art, and their relationship to it; which can occasion a splenetic reaction.

  • I read works by Tracey Emin in the same light as works by Samuel Beckett or Jacques Derrida – they all hint at things beyond the surface, but no fixed meaning is given, merely implied. They sometimes trick us, but that is part of their charm. They sometimes masquerade as ordinary, throw away comments, yet at the same time encourage endless discussion which supplements the work with new meanings – feeds it and makes it grow. This kind of work makes us work hard, and that is its strength.

  • Hey Rhonda, I went on Saturday, it was totally fantastic. I had a little weep watching Why I didn’t become a dancer. Hope you enjoy it too.

  • Good to know you found it so interesting and moving. All in all Tracey has made some great work over the years and raised lots of questions, created dialogue where there was none before. Her work has made a lot of people aware of contemporary art and those who may not usually engage with it. I am giong to see her exhibition in August for the second time with a friend who has heard of Tracey but not see her work. This should be an interesting visit.

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