• Tehero1

    Tracey Emin: Furniture (Courtesy the artist/the White Cube) Photo: Ben Westoby (detail)

Art

Tracey Emin goes back to her Margate roots but her art goes in an interesting new direction

Posted by Rob Alderson,

For the first solo show at Margate’s stunning Turner Contemporary, who else but Emin? But if the return of the town’s most famous daughter is predictable, the show is anything but. Her sculpture The Vanishing Lake – which features a stained Union jack in a battered, rusted metal bath is meant to symbolise “fecundity leaving – the girl is never coming back” but it could equally act as the epitaph of the synonymous-with-shock Tracey Emin era.

At Friday’s launch, the artist pointed out the alleged radicalism of the My Bed is now commonplace in contemporary culture – so much so that she sees its echo in any number of saucy bedroom scenes in adverts. But it is wrong to think her new artistic departure is born out of necessity because she has lost her power to rile middle England. It’s more that she’s mellowed.

“I am constantly falling in and out of love with art, sometimes it’s really good to me, sometimes it’ not so nice and sometimes I have treated it very disrespectfully. When I am low it is art that comes and saves me. This show has made me fall back in love with art and the whole process.

“This show is more important to me than going to Venice (for the Biennale in 2007). There’s more risk-taking. I see a future for me and my art, I am excited about where this show will lead me.”

  • Tracey-emin_-laying-on-blue-2011-gouache-on-paper-_-the-artist-courtesy-of-white-cube--photo-ben-westoby

    Tracey Emin: Laying on Blue (Courtesy the artist/the White Cube) Photo: Ben Westoby

The first gallery of the exhibition is busy with bright blue goauche paintings – confident, fast, loose and bright in the dazzling white space. Human forms rendered as energies, with occasional snippets of text, a dialogue about relationships in turns sweet and vaguely unsettling. At its most extreme it’s recognisable Emin territory, art as therapy, but it’s not as earnest as that might sound.

There’s also some beautiful embroideries on display, where the same eclectic lines (spidery, tapered, fat) are brought together in thread. Why would you recreate this frenetic style of drawing in such a painstaking medium? It feels like we’re being toyed with but it’s enjoyable, and it continues in the next room where a selection of soft nude paintings have been transformed into tapestries. The effect is disorienting, splayed female forms woven in this way.

There’s more embroideries here too, a triptych of herself reimagined as Picasso’s muse Marie-Therese Walter along with an accompanying series of monoprints, a celebration she says of an art history reference she loves (something again she feels she can do now she has reached a certain stage in her career).

For some, the inclusion of Rodin’s exquisite nudes and some of Turner’s (those not destroyed by Ruskin in his ham-fisted attempts to protect his fellow painter’s posthumous propriety) might seem incongruous but there’s no great sweeping point trying to be made. All three artists fixate on eroticism at certain moments, and a multi-century look at sexuality is an interesting diversion.

But back to Tracey. For someone who speaks about sex with charm and humour, the pervasive sexuality is anything but. It’s bruised, messy, complicated, a world away from the saucy seaside postcards with which Margate is so associated. A collection of 16 small paintings called Sex 25-11-07 Sydney seem to be a series of retina-flash imprints from a single intense night, a greatest-hit of animalistic passion perhaps.

Certainly the Dead Sea sculpture, a bronze cast branch in the middle of her stained old mattress is a hymn to sexuality past (“I’m never going to have a mattress stained like that again no matter how much I’d like to”).

It’s in the sculptures where her conceptual side runs wild, in the paintings ideas very much take a back seat to process and this is refreshing in itself. It was a deliberate choice not to bring together her various Margate works back to where they all began, she wanted to create something new and vibrant and I think surprising. Some critics have painted this show as the repackaging of her as a national treasure, but if you look for it there’s more going on here than immediately meets the eye.

  • Tracey-emin_-sex-1-25-11-07-sydney-courtesy-tracey-emin--tracey-emin-studio

    Tracey Emin: Sex 25-11-07 Sydney (Courtesy the artist)

  • Tracey-emin-breakfast-at-the-grotto-2011-gouache-on-paper-_-the-artist-courtesy-of-white-cube--photo-ben-westoby

    Tracey Emin: Breakfast at the Grotto (Courtesy the artist/the White Cube) Photo: Ben Westoby

  • Tracey-emin_-laying-on-blue-2011-gouache-on-paper-_-the-artist-courtesy-of-white-cube--photo-ben-westoby

    Tracey Emin: Laying on Blue (Courtesy the artist/the White Cube) Photo: Ben Westoby

  • Tracey-emin-furniture-2011-gouache-on-paper-_-the-artist-courtesy-of-white-cube--photo-ben-westoby

    Tracey Emin: Furniture (Courtesy the artist/the White Cube) Photo: Ben Westoby

  • Tracey-emin-i-didn_t-say-2011-gouache-on-paper-_-the-artist-courtesy-of-white-cube--photo-ben-westoby

    Tracey Emin: I Didn’t Say I Couldn’t Love You (Courtesy the artist/the White Cube) Photo: Ben Westoby

  • Tracey-emin-last-in-love-2011gouache-on-paper-_-the-artist-courtesy-of-white-cube--photo-ben-westoby

    Tracey Emin: Last in Love (Courtesy the artist/the White Cube) Photo: Ben Westoby

  • 2012-05-24-46248

    Tracey Emin: She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea installation shot Image © Stephen White

  • 2012-05-24-46235

    Tracey Emin: She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea installation shot Image © Stephen White

  • 2012-05-24-46269

    Tracey Emin: She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea installation shot Image © Stephen White

  • 2012-05-24-46276

    Tracey Emin: She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea installation shot Image © Stephen White

  • Tracey-emin_-she-lay-down-deep-beneath-the-sea-2012_-neon-_-the-artist--courtesy-white-cube--photo-ben-westoby

    Tracey Emin: She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea (Courtesy the artist/the White Cube)

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. Main

    Artist Larry van Pelt wants to spread the word that “Jesus in life makes a difference.” Already a keen artist, Florida-based Larry decided to use his creative skills to spread the message, and began drawing Jesus in a number of different working environments. His collection involves a huge range of work scenarios, including a truck driver, a secretary, a carpet layer, a bodybuilder and a french horn player.

  2. List

    We’ve long admired the work of Californian set designer and art director Adi Goodrich. A veritable mistress of creating the sort of strange, cartoon-like scenes that pop with colour and ideas, she’s worked with big-name clients like Michel Gondry and Wieden+Kennedy, but she recently got in touch about an intriguing solo exhibition at The Standard hotel in Hollywood, entitled Like Thiiiiis. The show takes the form of an installation in a glass box behind the hotel’s reception desk, and features a number of images that look to show what it means to be a young creative at the start of your career.

  3. Main

    In a beautiful profile in The Guardian recently, journalist Tim Lewis travelled out to the Hollywood hills to peek behind the gates of Hockney’s jungle-like home to get a glimpse of what the now 77-year-old artist is up to. As it happened, he had been very busy indeed: making a whole bunch of new paintings that are, in classic Hockney-style, moving in a totally different direction from his previous work.

  4. List

    Remember Kim Keever? Back in the summer of 2013, the New York based artist wowed us with his amazing landscapes created in 200-gallon tanks of water and what’s more, he let us in on his process with some fascinating set-up shots. Now, like many a painter before him, Kim has moved from landscapes to more abstract creations albeit within the context of his sculptural practice.

  5. List

    This project by artist Erica Allen is an oldie but such a goodie. Way back in 2008 California-born, Brooklyn-based Erica decided to merge a collection of faces from found barbershop posters with discarded shots of studio backdrops, creating a series of oddly alluring fictional portraits. Removed from their original context, the freshly-trimmed gents pictured come across as utterly anonymous and strangely distant, connected to one another only by a crisp shape-up and a gaze fixed somewhere in the distance. And if that rainbow backdrop didn’t inspire the album artwork for Drake’s Nothing Was the Same then I don’t know what did.

  6. List

    Edmund Clark is one of the most interesting artists working today, exploring what is arguably the defining issue of the past 13 years. He’s interested in the wars waged by the USA and UK in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the fall-out from this foreign policy and how it impacts on us here at home. His new book The Mountains of Majeed continues this theme, as it’s a reflection on “the end of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan through photography, found imagery and Taliban poetry.”

  7. List

    The secluded French port of Le Havre is a very particular place. Closed off by barriers, it is staffed solely by men, and jobs there are strictly only passed on from father to son. All of which made it the perfect backdrop for artist JR’s contribution to the Women Are Heroes project, which saw him collaborate with the dockers to create a huge image of a woman’s eyes on a 363-metre long container ship.

  8. List

    The bright, woozy haze of Wojciech Fangor’s psychedelic paintings is mesmerising. It’s even more so having learnt that the Polish artist, who worked during the 1960s, created these Op art masterpieces entirely in isolation, working in Eastern Europe having not seen the similar works being created in America and Europe by the likes of Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely. As such, while the images feel familiar; there’s also something exotic about them, pulsing with light created using intensely coloured oil paint applied in thin layers. A new show named Colour-Light-Space opens next month at London’s 3 Grafton Street gallery, and will display a number of works by Wojciech from the 1960s and 1970s that demonstrate his mastery of all three words in the title. It’s fascinating to think of the artist working on these beautiful optical illusions and explorations of the power of painting well before similar works were created elsewhere in the world, and it’s great to have his work celebrated in the way it deserves.

  9. List

    Mark Lazenby is the go-to guy for collage that just works. We last featured the artist two years ago and since then his portfolio of pieced together artworks has exploded with even more impressive works and a real exploration of materials and collage techniques.

  10. List

    There’s not a pie in the cultural world that James Franco isn’t ready and willing to stick a finger into, and to prove it the actor, director, poet and musician has just announced a new exhibition of his artworks, entitled Fat Squirrel, which is to be held at London’s Siegfried Contemporary gallery. The show is an undeniably eclectic collection, including a number of self portraits of the artist in the guise of various famous historical figures, a deer orgy entitled Triple Team, and some bright painterly collages, not to mention the eponymous overweight rodents which are undoubtedly our favourites.

  11. List

    I’m known for my sweet tooth and ability to consume an obscene amount of cakes, sweets and biscuits in one sitting, so it’ll come as no surprise that I was instantly drawn to Will Cotton’s sugary scenes of candy-laced lands.

  12. List

    Time and again Amy Woodside gets in touch to let us know about new projects she’s cooked up and time and again we’re powerless to resist them. The New York-based artist is focussed to a fault on her fine art practice where iconic letterforms emerge from meticulously registered screen printing and frantic flourishes of spray paint. Where first she caught our eye with multicoloured wordplay, the constant reduction and refinement of her process has resulted in a new series’ of totemic words like ‘Hero’, ‘Cash’, ‘Hoax’ and ‘Like’, pre-loaded with cultural context and double meaning, writ large on the canvas. What’s the meaning behind them? The interpretation is up to you, but Amy always seems to be critiquing pop culture with its own visual vernacular and playing fast and loose with our ambiguous use of language.

  13. List

    The Dutch/Brazilian artist Rafaël Rozendaal is best known for his digital artworks that often take the form of webpages but as he told us at our 2013 creative symposium Here he is increasingly interested in exploring his fascination with light and colour in real-world scenarios. Most recently this has taken the form of his hyper-colourful abstract lenticular paintings, which are made up of layers of different frames and so appear to move when viewed from different angles.