Tuesday, 16 March 2010

My Family and Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin - I've Got It All (2000)

My mum, who studied Fine Art and trained as an art therapist, has always wanted to expose me and my sisters to as much art as possible. She could better explain the specifics of her work, and she'd prefer if I didn't go into detail of the politically-charged depictions of genitalia she etched in the 1970's, but it goes without saying that my mother feels at home with modern art.

My dad is somewhat more conservative in his tastes, he preferred to take me to museums and stately homes at weekends. Yet I remember standing on the South Bank at twilight as he pointed out the site where the Tate Modern was being built. When he told me it would only be done in 2000, I thought it was a really long way away. Its opening caused much hyperactivity in my household. When friends from around the world came to stay, the first port of call, after the now-diffused Cutty Sark, was the Tate Modern.

There's one exhibition which helped introduce the new Tate to Britain. But I wasn't allowed to go. It was Sensation. My oldest sister and my dad told me all about it, though. And it fascinated me.

Marcus Harvey - Myra (1995)

After being exposed to more of the YBA's work, particularly Tracey Emin's, I've realised that she really isn't more warped than the next person, she's honest and surprisingly innocent. Her tent wasn't about sex, it was about intimacy. Her bed wasn't about mess, it was about sustenance. It is only when you approach her work with a cynical, disapproving eye that you find her work crass and unsightly. Maybe everyone else has realised this: last year, at the Royal Academy's summer show, her picture of a teddy bear astronaut almost disappeared under the red stickers.

The confessional nature of her art is what I find most intriguing and beautiful. She creates work inspired by the harrowing events of her life: abortion, attempted suicide, rape, near-alcoholism as a form of catharsis. But not just this; she also creates work inspired by the joys in her life. Her permanent grin is not smug, but a mixture of hopeful, wistful and, at 47, expectant.

Mark Lawson recently interviewed Tracey.

The only flaw of this interview, I felt, is concerning the point at which Mark asks her what she think any idiot could do what she does. She agrees with his suggestion that she's an artist because she is the first person to decide to put her work in a gallery. I feel I must point out that, if one must argue with her defence, that she's just been lucky, then maybe consider that she has been selling work for over 15 years. If the first pieces were flukes of luck, there is no way she'd be able to make any more work without freaking out. She has methods, and this is what those who appreciate her can see. She's also confident enough in her creativity to maintain the standard and value of work long after she left the zeitgeist.

Tracey Emin - Her Soft Lips Touched Mine And... (2008)

Her description of art as providing a modern spirituality is spot on; where else do people congregate in silence to reflect these days?

The video will only be kept online until the 21st March, so here are my favourite Tracey quotes:

"A couple of years ago I didn't drink for eight months. And I was the most boring person in christendom."

"I would've gone into the rag trade, and, no pun intended, I wasn't cut out for it."

"There was a serious discussion between myself and Charles Saatchi about what we were gonna do about the condoms!"

"I'm certainly not going to vote for a government which has put this country in such turmoil over this stupid war. This unnecessary war."

"I need my energy for my art. I need my energy for myself. If I start retaliating on every tiny battle, I would never win my war with myself as being an artist...I can't go around fighting all these battles with people."
"My art is what I should be doing. That's my children, and that's what I'm going to try and be as content with as possible."

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