Thursday, 2 June 2011

Reviewing Tracey

'It's pretty difficult for me to do drawings not about me and about someone else.' *

So I went to the Tracey Emin show at the Hayward -( can I just take this moment to big up the Art Fund card, which is very handy if you go to lots of exhibitions, a lot of them are expensive).

I didn't know whether to go or not. Because I always had a certain sympathetic interest, ever since catching 'Why I Never Became A Dancer' a long time ago on TV (a heartbreaking early film about sexual humiliation), but then she's everywhere and a bit overexposed these days. And the complaints about taxes turned me right off. If you are from a deprived background and you get to be super-rich and successful, bitching about paying your taxes is very poor indeed. And she voted Tory.

This first room you come to has the derelict pier and bathing hut. It is the strongest thing there, like something out of a dream. Then there's room after room after room of drawings, embroideries, sculptures, films, prints... all about Tracey. Some of it is funny; 'I dream about sitting on your face' reads one monoprint. But most of it is desperately sad.

It strikes me that it is mostly images of women, themes that have been edited out of art history by the classical canon. She doesn't do mothers or madonnas or odalisques. She does do abortion, depression and mental breakdowns. Maybe that's why she gets people's backs up.

When you see her work in a more diluted setting, in group exhibitions, they are always interesting, compelling. En masse you can't quite get your head around this amount of self-obsession. By the end of it I was quite wrung out and knackered.

Maybe if you are, I don't know, Rembrandt, you can get away with only focussing on self-portraits. She's honest and direct and fascinating... but I'm surprised so many reviews mention her draughtsmanship, because she can't draw for toffee. If you visit this show, take a look at the drawings of people, then check out their hands. There aren't any. Hands are tricky to draw.



  1. Yes - with you on TE. Some impressive ideas - liked the tent of everyone she slept with - perhaps partly because some names were familiar - but often the execution underwhelms me.

  2. Right! And apparently a lot of the crafted stuff is now made by artisans too. Bah. I know a lot of artists do this, especially with conceptual art, but she does go on about being skilled with embroidery quite a lot.

  3. I once had a job interview at Art Fund - they were a bit weird. It seems to be something only old fogies go for, but I think the membership is quite brilliant.