Tuesday, 26 July 2011
I went to see Tracey Emin's latest exhibition at the Hayward Gallery... for the second time! And truth be told, I am glad I did.
I haven’t previously been to see an Emin exhibition before or seen any of her work live; only through the expressions of others I have heard of her work and, more so, her artistic and lively character. Armed with my knowledge of what I should expect and how I should feel, I entered into the Hayward Gallery with my glasses and Dutch courage; wanting to be shocked, awe inspired and a slight sense of a Che Guevara swagger ... only to walk away feeling angry.
Being blunt; I felt the exhibition was self obsessed, absorbed and filled with a 'charity'-like plea of her life to date. Divulging her hard upbringing and poor status, she revealed the hardships she has had to encounter when growing up. (Even though she has a degree AND a first class Masters degree, and the exhibition is sponsored by Louis Vuitton- her life seemed hardly...hard).
I was disappointed...but I wasn’t too sure if it was mainly to do with what I had witness and expected to witness, or in fact that I was disappointed with myself and not understanding this art. My fellow exhibition visitors seemed in admiration of her work and the deepness of her world that she chooses to express visually. I didn’t get it...should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I be feeling angry...or maybe it’s too clever for me?
My head was armed with too many questions... I decided to return to the Hayward for a second time...though- not looking for an Emin shock; but too see a daring artist's work. And I’m glad I did.
Taking the time to immerse myself in her world, and trace her story from specific points she directly steers us to, I am astounded to see Emin’s personal qualities shine through her work.
You expect to see Tracey Emin work as what she is known for, and you do. Sharp, shock and bold; the boldness of her quilt pieces are memorable, funny and direct to the point. Leading into the neon written signs illuminated within an expanding velvety dark room, which appeared to make the words stand out as if you were drunk in a club. (I especially liked the words which were crossed out; revealing the mistakes- visibly)
As I walked further into her exhibition; the Emin bravado started to crumble and dissipate, showing warnings of her fragility. As if unwinding a ball of string; the shock intrepidness diminished to allow her vulnerability to untangle itself, and what I was left with was a brave artist expressing/ discovering her past through the art of publically showing.
My favourite piece is Knowing my Enemy (2002); “a vast sculpture of a collapsed pier, with a hut at the end. Made in response to a letter from her father (framed on the wall of the gallery), it's her vision of the safe haven he longed for but could never quite reach”. (http://www.wallpaper.com/art/tracey-emin-retrospective-london/5273)
Taking over the whole room, this massive structure devours the visitor underneath its rotten beams and rusty nails, giving the sense of danger lurking from a cherished childhood memory, completely breathtaking to see this silent structure that has a ghost like presence in the ground floor gallery space.
So OK, Emin can’t be for everyone, and I am still racked with unanswered questions about her work and intentions. But her braveness to reveal the fragments of her existence through fragile and intimate ways are without doubt...beautiful.
It was not through studying Art Theory- but, simply opening my eyes to appreciate of an importance.