Monday, July 4, 2011
Tracey Emin - Love is What you Want
I've long been an admirer of Tracey Emin as a persona and an entity but have had little interaction with or understanding of her art. Certainly I'm not one of the types who dismiss it all out of hand as rubbish simply because its not a landscape painting. Such a method of thinking misses the point of modern art, which to my mind is much more about what you can't see rather than the mundane objects you can see. Art like this is a provocation of ideas rather than a mirrored depiction of the world. So I ventured into the Hayward Gallery to see if the art could match up to the artist.
Upon entering the exhibit you are struck in the face by the huge Knowing My Enemy, a rickety and dilapidated wooden pier with a shed on the end of it. If I recall correctly it was inspired by correspondence with her father with whom relations where difficult. I found that it spoke very strongly about the nature of our various types relationships, how they can go from strength to weakness. What where once solid and dependable become weak and broken as people come and go during our lifetime.
For me the shed at the end was showing us a warm cozy place were people can meet but with the pier leading to it in such a state of disrepair its imposable to get to. It will forever more remain inaccessible and to be viewed from a distance with regret and longing for what has passed. It also makes one think of how the pier might once of been, strong, standing proud against the world. But eventually over time its powers of resistance fade and it falls into disrepair a shattered remnant of what it once was.
As a single piece this was the only one to really stand out and have something to say. There were the quilts and some sketches that show despite what some might think she does have talent for making "proper" art. The neon signs were fun but the film with the dog asking her for sex seemed odd. There was another room with a pile of wood in the middle and a few other things that I walked around and didn't understand very much. The rest of the exhibit was full of personal objects, letters and photos and it was here that the over riding theme came back on track and took hold.
Various cases filled the last room and contained all kinds of items personal to Tracey Emin which acted as souvenirs from her life and of the people she had shared that life with. You become of aware of how we use objects to prove our relationships exist. We instill in the inanimate all our emotions and use them as a totem to show we exist in the world. Feelings are given form in the real world via a little trinket or photograph. And when the connections are served we are left with just plain old ordinary things. Although I did walk straight past the display of tampons but I loved the map of the world, I like maps.
It was a very interesting way of presenting the nature of relationships and it touches on all kinds of interesting subjects particularly that of loss and sadness. Perhaps it helped that I like Tracey Emin and through reading her book and interviews have a better understanding what she is about than I otherwise would. Certainly the show seemed to confuse a couple of people I was viewing with. And perhaps to truly understand it all you need the artist to explain it.
While its true that not all of the art grabs you own its own or has very much to say when you take it all as one whole piece and start to run with some of the ideas and themes then it goes beyond that. Modern art requires you to take leaps of faith and to think for yourself about whatever the concept might be Taken as more than the some of its parts this was a wonderful display and a thoroughly rewarding experience.