tracey emin, love is what you want, at the hayward

29 June 2011 § 1 Comment

I was not a big fan of Emin – or even a small fan for that matter. To me she seems to represent the art worlds version of Big Brother. Here is Emin determined to reveal every personal trait, good, bad and ugly to the public who are determined to lap it all up – the more lascivious or embarrassing the better. Life laid bare as entertainment. Reality TV as art.

Nevertheless I was determined to go to this exhibition with an open mind. She has an army of fans in the art and media and they surely must see something compelling in her work. However the omens were not good. I arrived at the usual ‘opening day’ – the day immediately following the private view – but the exhibition, strangely, was ‘closed for a private event’. I eventually got in the following day.

In the catalogue Emin explains that her art is all about words and as we enter we get an awful lot of them, the first galleries occupied by her blankets and neons. The appliqued blankets are very impressive. Large, colourful and eye-catching they are more powerful as a group than individually with words and phrases used cleverly to illustrate a ‘patchwork of memories’ or concerns in the wider world.

Extending across the room is ‘Knowing the Enemy’ –  a partially collapsed pier inspired by a letter written by her father. It is clever and interesting – the broken planking isolating a lonely cabin at the pier’s end. Evocative of longing and loss.

From this point the exhibition sadly goes rapidly downhill. The neons look pretty but putting trite statements like ‘love is all you want’ in neon does not unfortunately make particularly interesting art. A lame film of Emin on horseback wandering around Margate sand is one of several films to avoid. There is a ‘scrap book’ of a room entitled ‘Family and Friends’ with lots of trivial bits and pieces scattered over the wall and reverentially placed in cabinets – I started to try to read and make sense of these sundry fragments but lost the will to live.

In ‘Drawings’ there are various scrawled versions of Tracey masturbating and little else whilst searching desperately for more ‘Room’ topics the Hayward scrape the barrel with ‘Trauma’, ‘Menphis’, ‘Early Work’ (almost non-existent), ‘Sculpture’ (ditto) and ‘Terraces’ (a couple of teddies under benches).

A couple of works were sadly missing – ‘Everyone I ever Slept With’ was destroyed in the Momart fire and ‘Bed’ which Saatchi has kept aside for a 2012 show in Chelsea. Both would have added much to what was ultimately an exhibition rather devoid of strong individual pieces

It is undoubtedly true that many of the works would be lost individually but brought together in to a – sort of – coherent whole they have much more impact. Emin’s art, and life, makes much more sense and the gallery has done a good job of curation. I quite enjoyed the exhibition as an overview of a cultural icon but as for the art I ended up siding with Jake and Dinos Chapman who recently laid in to Emin during an Independent  interview (18 June 2011) ‘I cant stand it. It’s art therapy – it doesn’t belong outside her head.’ ‘Tracey draws very badly .. and everybody claps their flippers together.’  The Chapmans incidentally are preparing for an exhibition at White Cube (opening 15 July 2011) where they have worked apart for several months, the results secret to the gallery and each other – now that I will find interesting.

Tracey Emin Love is all you Need. The Hayward Gallery until 19 August 2011

Jake or Dinos Chapman at White Cube Hoxton Square and Masons Yard. 15 July to 17 September 2011

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§ One Response to tracey emin, love is what you want, at the hayward

  • Mark Sheerin says:

    I think you’ve called it really well on this show, few strong individual pieces, good blankets, and quite a lot that is boring. The compelling aspect is where it bleeds into any other form of media confession. Tracey says she’s very conscious of what she’s doing but at times you have to wonder.

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