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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Tracey Emin: Love Is What You Want, Hayward Gallery

Tracey Emin is the UK's most notorious art rebel. Strangely, after seeing her epic retrospective at Southbank's Hayward Gallery, I was reminded of Lady Gaga, another deeply injured girl who uses her impressive creative outlet to sooth herself and relieve her anger. Both are needy and desperate for appreciation from others, both are aggressively and eccentrically talented.

The exhibition shows a wide range of Emin work from the bold, colourful tapestries to small figurative sketches; from strange films of herself to her most personal often bizarre possessions, artifacts and memories. Entitled ‘Love Is What You Want’, this collection hopes to illustrate the different aspects of Emin’s life, it is an expansive exhibition, that gives a complete biography of this troubled artist.

There is the usual helping of crude creativity on show. Many will remember the dirty dishevelled ‘My Bed’ that Emin submitted for the 1999 Turner Prize show, gaining substantial media interest. Here we are subjected to Emin’s used tampons, and a video explaining, in detail, the physical and emotional turmoil of her abortion. Harrowing for the viewer too, filled with suffering and tragedy, but eventually I felt myself becoming annoyed and bored by these disgusting exhibits, there is less and less meaning to them.

The films are even more self-indulgent, video depictions of Emin’s fantasies. ‘Love is a Strange Thing’ shows Tracey speaking to a drooling dog in a park, he has propositioned her and asked for sex, but she turns him down - a bizarre clip that yet again illustrates her need for power and control. I found the 1995 work ‘Why I never became a dancer’ more interesting. A dizzy film that gives a vivid account of Emin’s childhood in Margate, and her early dancing ambition. She tells us of the boys that laughed at her, these local lads that slept with her then ruined her dream. After seeing the town of Margate, the shabby shops and beach, the film turns to a smiling Tracey who dances manically round the room to Sylvester’s ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’.

My favourite works are the embroidered rainbow blankets that cover the walls of the first room. On these hangings Emin has stitched statements and thoughts, patterns and text. Some blaspheme and swear while others just show thoughts and realisations. They are angry and chaotic, like much of her work, but also wacky and quite stunning, whether she meant them to be aesthetically pleasing is another point to ponder.

Tracey Emin’s ‘Love Is What You Want’ continues until 29 August, 2011, book here.

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