We are showcasing a series of blog posts written by our second year students as part of our Engaging Art History module which introduces students to ideas of public engagement in museums and galleries, and how to use the knowledge gained during their studies to speak to a wide range of audiences. Our first post is by Naomi Bruneel…
‘I’ve always been an advocate of women being able to tell how it feels’ – Emin
Very much to my excitement, Tracey Emin, who first rose to fame in the 1990’s as one of the Young British Artists, made a return to the London art scene since this February with her exhibition A Fortnight of Tears at the White Cube.
After cutting ties with her American gallery in 2016 and retreating to the South of France, Emin has reappeared with her new exhibition ‘A Fortnight of Tears’, held at Bermondsey’s White Cube Gallery. The exhibition features a range of media including painting, photography, film, sculpture and drawing, as well as her infamous neon signs. The exhibition is a big ‘emotional time bomb’ which consists of Emin, as a now matured woman, looking back at her past experiences.
One thing you must understand about Emin’s work is that it is very personal and confessional. Her artworks often relate to her troubled teenage years and early adulthood. My Bed (1998) was her seminal piece that explored the raw and emotional period that followed her horrific abortion. She admits that ‘this bed probably saved my life’, after laying there for 4 days.
When first exhibited, the installation stirred a lot of commentary due its provocative nature: the bed included bottles of alcohol, contraception, tampons and underwear stained with bodily fluids. Reconnecting with the installation many years later, Emin states that it is like looking back at a ghost, a ghost of the woman she no longer is.
You should also know that Emin is a strong advocate of gender equality and female liberation. Emin’s artworks are critical of the expectations of women having to marry and create a family. When Emin first fell pregnant, she was shocked as she had been previously told by a doctor that she would never be able to conceive. Now commenting on the absence of a husband and child, Emin believes that she chose the right path. She worries that she would have neglected her art and in turn resent her family. Emin states that when she does (temporarily) neglect her art, she becomes depressed and her body physically stiffens. Luckily for us (and Bermondsey’s White Cube Gallery), her body is in full swing again!
Since the beginning, Egon Schiele and Käthe Kollwitz have been inspirational figures behind Emin’s art, especially her drawings. In 2015, the Leopold Museum in Vienna exhibited more than 80 of Emin’s works alongside Schiele’s to show the rooted connection between the two artists. Similar drawings feature in ‘A Fortnight of Tears’: pink abstracted representations of the female body create an interesting, but also aesthetic, contrast with the clinical white gallery space.
The exhibition also features an ‘insomnia’ room, which displays 50 close-up bed selfies of Emin at her most wakeful hours – very much #nofilter.
Returning to her British roots, ‘A Fortnight of Tears’ explores how over the years, Emin has transformed from a young girl of alcohol and sex, to a woman of wisdom and compassion. Her emotions have remained at the forefront of her artworks and her passion is still their driving force. Even though we no longer see the vulnerability of a young adult, Emin displays her journey of growth, a path to which we can all identity with.
After seeing the exhibition, I’d highly recommend you pay a visit too!
Here are the details:
6 February 2019 – 7 April 201,
White Cube Bermondsey, 144 – 152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ