A new show of works by Tracey Emin just opened at White Cube in Bermondsey.
Emin burst onto the art scene as part of the Saatchi sponsored, Sensation show, which introduced the world to a group of emerging British artists in the 90s (Hirst, Gavin Turk, Marc Quinn, Sarah Lucas et. al.). She was bold brash and scandalous, putting her actual bed on display, complete with all the detritus surrounding it, like used condoms, cigarettes, empty alcohol bottles. It generated one of those Duschampian “is it art?” moments. She followed up with a tent embroidered with the names of everyone she had slept with up to that point, friends, relatives lovers. She has since become a mainstay of the global art scene and a much loved public figure who can be counted on for brutal honesty, self-revelation and politically incorrect opinions about anything and everything.
The latest works, gathered together under the tile of A Fortnight of Tears, are classic Emin. It’s virtually impossible to separate the artists from her work, she herself refers to her paintings as her children and has described her creativity as a moment of conception. It’s a large show, featuring drawings, paintings, iPhone photos, neon sculptures and huge bronzes. It’s a moving exhibit, Emin’s work is visceral and riddled with the complex emotions of human existence. Love, anguish and pain haunt both her and her pieces. a gallery called the Ashes Room contains images of the casket holding her mother’s remains and self-portraits of Emin, it’s a room where grief holds sway and it’s hard not to cry when you encounter the works in spite of the crowds surrounding. Another room is called Insomnia and features huge prints of iPhone selfies Emin took of her struggle with sleep, they are confrontive images, devoid of any attempt at filtering out the ravages of life and sleeplessness.
This is art as self-examination, it is intensely personal and subjective and that’s what makes it so universally accessible, she gives voice to our own sense of grief, loss, joy and hope. Her well-documented rape and abortions, her odes to motherhood and sex all feature here as you might expect and she continues her long artistic relationship with image the combination of image and text and her love of translating words into neon. She scratches, she scrawls, she writes, she wails and she casts her feelings onto canvas, out of neon and into bronze and it is beautiful to see.