Thursday, 13 November 2014


 WHITE CUBE, Bermondsey St until November 16th

The Last Great Adventure is You

You Never Said Goodbye 2014, Embroidered calico 210 x 251 cm; 232.5 x 270 x 8.5 cm (framed)
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2014 Photo: Jack Hems,  Courtesy White Cube)

 Over the years Tracey Emin has used text, paintings, neon works, embroidery, video and installations to re create and memorialise her past. And now her latest drawings, embroideries and bronze statues at White Cube chronicle her life with a new vigour, beauty  - and the same excoriating candour.

That's how you think of me 2014, Embroidered calico, 279 x 180cm
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2014 Photo: Jack Hems,  Courtesy White Cube

I recall first meeting her work in 1999, as we clustered round her notorious My Bed listening to Tim Marlowe in the Tate Gallery. She had been shortlisted for the Turner Prize that year and there was a considerable media fuss: how trivial, how irreverent, how bleakly honest can art get? The rumour was that the inspiration for My Bed had been the memory of a spell of several days when the artist felt suicidal because of relationship difficulties.  
Tim Marlowe commented that you could see the work as a current expression of a European tradition which dated back centuries: confessional writing. Young women had produced remarkable literature in their journals,  their poetry and their religious and theological writings. Here was a visual representation. In 2002 I saw Emin's powerful video Why I Never Became a Dancer and his words seemed more apt than ever.

If I was Good 2014 Embroidered calico (200 x 160 cm)  (221 x 182 x 8.5 cm) (framed)
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2014 Photo: Jack Hems Courtesy White Cube

The contemplative nature of her work, which Tim Marlowe identified, continues in this show. A section of the Gallery marked simply '9x9x9'  houses six large embroideries. Maybe there are technical reasons for using calico, but its history is of a cheap hard wearing disposable fabric with no depth or gloss. The artist stitches into this lowly fabric her honesty and vitality, untainted with self pity or humility or doubt. Each title is a cliche and her elegance and sincerity strip away any temptation to construct a narrative.  With blank faces they look at you from deep within themselves and involve you with their thoughts.

How it is 2014; Gouache on paper 25.3 x 35.4 cm © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved,  DACS 2014 Photo: Ben Westoby Courtesy White Cube

The main corridor is lined with paintings which appear simple and immediate but are the result of 'application, obliteration, and layering over a period of several years'. Her work continues to be "libidinous and reverent, desperate and tranquil, bleakly honest - a unique take on the idea of a search for personal fulfilment".

 The work is about rites of passage, of time and age. and the simple realisation that we are always alone. (Tracey Emin 2014)

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