Confessional, candid, challenging and poignant. These are some of the words commonly used to describe the works of Tracey Emin. Emin is most celebrated for her visualisation of universal contemporary experiences, drawn from her own personal memories, dreams and body. A modern-day Expressionist, her work encompasses painting, installation, sculpture, photography, embroidery, neon and drawing.Read More
Emin is remembered as one of the Young British Artists (YBAs)—a loose grouping of artists who became known for their nonconformist art and larger-than-life attitudes in the 1990s. Among her YBA contemporaries—including Damien Hirst and Jake and Dinos Chapman—Emin was close friends with Sarah Lucas, and in 1993 the two young artists opened a shop to sell their artworks. Emin's breakthrough, however, came from the works that, through their stark honesty to the point of provocation, deconstructed the border between life and art, and openly shared her personal experiences. Inside a tent, Emin appliquéd the names of every person she had shared a bed with from the time of her birth to the year 1995, thus creating Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 (1995). Her most iconic work, My Bed (1998), is an installation of her bed from a depressive phase when she did not leave her bed for several days. Surrounding the unmade mattress are empty bottles, used condoms and tissues, which immortalises a particular moment in the artist's life with its loneliness, despair and private suffering intact. Emotionally powerful and outrageously frank, Emin's works redefined the ways in which a female artist could discuss herself—her life, her body—in public.
Often at the centre of Emin's work is the female nude, especially her own—a tendency that has led some critics to regard her oeuvre as feminist. Although the artist herself has somewhat denied association, her blunt exploration of the female body and sexuality reflect the feminist belief that a woman can define her own sexuality. Between 2009 and 2010, Emin collaborated with Louise Bourgeois in the last months of the famously feminist artist's life. In the resulting exhibition Do Not Abandon Me (2011), the autobiographical paintings showed the two artists engaging in different aspects of their lives, from Emin's traumatic memories to Bourgeois' experience as a mother. In relation to the use of the female body in her work, Emin reflected in a conversation with Ocula Magazine that 'I know my body better than anyone else. I am my best model; it makes it really different that I am the woman because I am not viewing my body with a sexual gaze but with an understanding one.'
Emin was born in London in 1963 and grew up in the seaside town of Margate. She was inspired by the expressive qualities of JMW Turner and Egon Schiele from an early age, and she closely studied their styles as a student. Returning to London, she graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in painting. Over her long career, Emin has exhibited in the UK, Holland, Germany, Japan, Australia and the United States. Her work has been subject to several survey exhibitions, including her first major retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2008); Hayward Gallery, London (2011) and Turner Contemporary, Margate (2012). Cited as a national treasure by the Guardian in 2015, Emin represented Britain at the 52nd Venice Biennale and Queen Elizabeth II appointed her Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the visual arts in 2013. Emin currently lives and works in England and France.
Born 1963 in London, where she lives and works, Tracey Emin studied at the Maidstone College of Art and the Royal College of Art. She has exhibited in numerous international galleries and institutions, including the Hayward Gallery in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen. Her works have also been included in a number of international group exhibitions in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Japan, Australia, the United States and Chile.
In 2007, Tracey Emin represented Britain at the 52nd Venice Biennale. In 2008 she held her first retrospective exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. This major collection also toured to the Centro de Arte Contemporaneao in Malaga and the Kunstmuseum in Bern. She was elected to the Royal Academy in 2007, and bestowed an honorary doctorate by the University of Kent in the same year. In 2013 she was awarded a CBE for services to the arts.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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