“The work is about rites of passage, of time and age, and the simple realisation that we are always alone” – Tracey Emin, July 2014
Tracey Emin, The Last Great Adventure is you, 2013
Neon, 29 5/16 x 74 x 1 15/16 in. (74.5 x 188 x 5 cm). © Tracey Emin All rights reserved, DACS 2014
Modern art is by definition challenging, and Tracey Emin’s new exhibition ‘The Last Great Adventure is You’ has, in classic Emin style, garnered both highly sung praise and damning criticism. The first exhibition to be held at the London White Cube gallery in five years, it includes bronze sculptures, gouaches, paintings, large scale embroideries and neon works. As always, Emin’s great and tortuously examined subject matter is herself: nude self-portraits echo the patriarchal Western tradition of the female nude whilst reclaiming the practice for women themselves. Huge canvases with the magnified images of paintings embroidered onto them serve to highlight not only the strength of the artist, but her weaknesses too. She takes the traditional craft of embroidery, so often associated with ‘women’s work’, and inverts its usage: using it to draw her vulnerably naked body. This is not the first time she has done this, ‘Everyone I have ever slept with 1963-1995’ used embroidery to spell out the names of all those with whom Emin had shared a bed. Again, the piece was about female empowerment, but also betrayed a more tender side to Emin as it included her mother and names of platonic friends. Her work is about all relationships, not just sexual ones with men, and this latest exhibition, whilst at first seemingly about someone else, ‘you’, is in the end all about Emin– it is an exhibition addressed to herself.
The Queen of Controversy does not disappoint. Her work is, as always, one of frank disclosure. In-your-face and sexually provocative, Emin’s voice has always been one that unashamedly calls for her to be noticed. She is a woman of many words and has spoken candidly on subjects ranging from her own traumatic abortions and her self-diagnosed inability to be a mother, to being sacked by the Royal Academy, to her mental health and penchant for partying – showing up drunk at a live TV debate on channel 4 back in 1997, the bad girl of British art told all those present: “I want to phone my Mum, she’s going to be embarrassed by this conversation . . . I don’t give a f**k.” Our mums would have been embarrassed too, but as a confessional artist that’s just her style. Girls, you have to applaud the fact that she had her own used tampons showing in the Tate, and the fearlessness with which she bares her life for all to see (inc. dirty knickers). No matter what you think of Tracey Emin’s art, you cannot help but admire her honesty, her determination, and her success.
Good Red Love 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 8 1/4 x 11 5/8 in. (21 x 29.5 cm), © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2014
So Pretty, 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 9 15/16 in. (30.5 x 25.2 cm), © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2014
Words: Florence Trott.
Photos: Ben Westoby
Courtesy of White Cube.