FOr a woman I’ve met remotely for only 10 minutes, I’ve recently seen Tracy Emin a few times. I saw it in ink, color, bronze and film. Sometimes it is pink and graceful, sometimes it is provocative or slanted in the lover’s fist. It appears in much of Emin’s new work in Jupiter Artland in I Lay Here For You, which includes sculptures, individual models, paintings, and works on paper, and describes the artist’s recovery and rediscovery of love after bladder cancer.
Not to confuse the artist with the subject, but there is no doubt that this is Emin – even in the works where her face is painted, the artist is right there, inviting us (literally) into the most intimate crevices of their lives. Her bed and the life-affirming activities that took place in it are the subject of 11 monochrome models made in 2022 and the revealing titles I Know You Loved Me – I know since I loved you too and because I’m so sexy. I was born sexy and will die sexy I read like diary entries.
Meanwhile, fully dressed and animated, Emin sits atop a large bronze statue she made for Jupiter Artland’s expansive parks and talks about her mother’s influence on her decision to try new big pieces. She laughs, “When she died, I felt abandoned, it was like – well, damn it.” “Life is short, do it, do it, because if I spoil it, I will spoil it.” It’s fine.” There’s no difference between Emin – the attractive and totally honest artist – and the bare nude figure who appears in ink, canvas, and bronze. This weakness is incredibly strong and only increased after her cancer surgery.
I Lay Here For You is almost a sequel to A Journey to Death currently shown in Margate where Emin was showing her first selection of work done since her illness. Where the first gallery was teetering on the edge of a cliff, this new show in Scotland is a step forward, brimming with joy rather than pain. In almost every single model two figures intertwine almost indistinguishably, and spots appear under their bodies indicating repetitive motions. The series appears to be based on the memories of someone who helped Emin heal her.
Each individual style begins with the same stone background of Emin’s bed and each bedroom scene is added in ink by the artist. Choosing the exact same background to add a beloved couple, bedside table, rug, lamp, or medical equipment documents the constant ebb and flow of human communication. Anyone who has invited another person to their bed will recognize the overwhelming loneliness of staring into the night in their sleep, the frantic energy of making early love, the security of a hug, and the absolute silence that surrounds them. Alone loved.
Combined with insightful titles, from You Just Kept Wanting Me to Don’t Touch Me – Not Even In Your Dreams, the singles celebrate the compulsion of human intimacy unparalleled in its ability to destroy and even restore in a very short time. In the second exhibition – the Ballroom – the couple reappears on a small canvas titled I Keep Bleeding. Bathing a fierce red couple, they lay on a white bed and cling to each other – not in passion, but in a mutual attempt to restrain the suffering.
The bed appears two more times in this room, but it is empty, devoid of lovers or those recovering from illness. Bathed in the pink dusk light and neatly arranged with white fluffy sheets, the beds are firm and still, suggesting a transition, not to something ominous, but to a new season of outdoor activity. Here are some large, lively paintings with thickly sketched lines of the female figure in all its fleshy glory, but it’s the little portraits of the family that draw me across the ballroom to stare at the sacred walls of the bedroom we so deeply enjoy my own little painting of the vagina that draws the eye further, straight.
A short distance from the galleries lies a twenty-foot-high nude woman of bronze, her face pressed to the ground, her buttocks raised, her hand high. Surrounded by jungle, she avoids eye contact, and though she shares her name with the gallery – I’m laying here for you – I can’t help but feel that she forgot to wait for “you” as she lay. This is a unique, larger-than-life character who escaped the confines of the bed, seeking pleasure in the expanse of the woods, enjoying himself, unafraid of the prospect of falling into a vulnerable position. Reminds me of an artist we know.