Sunday, August 7, 2011

Love is what you want

While in London I saw the Tracey Emin exhibition Love is What You Want at the Hayward Gallery. I wrote about Emin in my Honours paper so I have read extensively about her and it’s something I’ve been wishing for ages, to see Tracey Emin’s work in person, as opposed to reproduced in a book or online. So when I found out there was a survey exhibition of her work during my stay in London I was pretty excited.

At last I got to see her films in their entirety, which to be honest I was reluctant to do, since I’m generally bored by films in contemporary art and was hoping it wouldn’t put me off one of my favourite artists. It didn’t, Emin did not disappoint me. The most memorable for me was the film, Why I never became a dancer.

This film features super-8 footage of her home town Margate, against which she describes her adolescent dreams of getting out of Margate and nearly winning a dance completion, only to be taunted till she ran away from the dance floor in tears by some older x-boyfriends. In the end we see her in a dance studio, where she names these men one by one, then exclaims, “This one is for you” and begins dancing with a huge smile on her face to Sylvester’s, You make me feel mighty real. It actually made me cry but not because it was sad but with a wonderful feeling of triumph, this film really says a lot about overcoming those moments in our past that have completely knocked our self-confidence to the ground.

Love is what you want features the wide range of mediums Emin has worked with over the course of her career, including painting, drawing, photography, textiles, video and sculpture. Her work is incredibly diverse, which can be quite distracting, yet the themes are so tight that this is not the case with Emin.

Although the subject matter is deeply personal and sometimes quite confrontational, these stories are about life – being human, being female. What I enjoy about Emin’s work is that I can relate to her trauma and her joy, there is no right or wrong way to cope with what life throws at us. Emotion is real and not to be denied.

I was so blown away by the size of her blankets, and some of the stitched drawings; I just had no idea of the scale of these works. I came away from Love is what you want with even more respect for this artist both technically and philosophically than I had before (and I already loved her greatly).

If you are in London and haven’t seen this exhibition you really must.

Tracey Emin: Love is what you want
Hayward Gallery 18 May - 29 August 2011

Note: The above images were sourced from the Hayward Gallery website.

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