After a four-year break, Tracey Emin is back in the art scene with her latest exhibition ‘A Fortnight of Tears’ at the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey. Installed throughout the entire gallery, this major exhibition focuses on the themes of love, sex, death, and fear. The exhibition also includes works of sculpture, film, photography, painting, and Emin’s trademark neon signage.
The vast collection focuses on Emin’s memories and emotions surrounding various events in her life: from the tragic loss of her mother, which clearly influenced a number of pieces in this exhibition, including the towering sculpture titled The Mother (2017), to her slightly amusing ‘Insomnia Room Installation’ (2018) that features 50 selfies taken on Emin’s own iPhone when she found herself unable to sleep.
The death of Emin’s mother is ever present in this exhibition, a collection of works shown in the Ashes Room including I Could Feel You (2018), Bye Bye Mum (2018) and I Prayed (2017) all evoke states of bereavement, mourning and everlasting love. These raw paintings depicting such grief set the tone for the rest of the exhibition.
One of the most haunting pieces in the collection is a triptych of new paintings titled I Watched You Disappear. Pink Ghost (2018); I Was Too Young to be Carrying Your Ashes (2017-2018); and You Were Still There (2018). Shown along one wall they represent Emin’s previous heartbreak, loss and the trauma of a botched abortion that she still deals with. This abortion is also the subject of the earliest piece in the exhibition, a 23-minute film titled How It Feels (1996). In the film, Emin discusses how the abortion made her rethink her artwork and how the event has shaped her work ever since.
Emin doesn’t shy away from confronting the horror in her life. In addition to her abortions, this can also be seen in the blunt depictions of sexual aggression in You Kept Watching Me (2018) and Rape (2018) which explicitly reference the sexual abuse she dealt with in her teenage years.
Despite the heavy themes of pathos, anger and loss that are dominant throughout Emin’s exhibition, there are pieces that through their visceral pink and dark red tones, convey feelings of love and desire. The gestural figures in But You Never Wanted Me (2018) and It Was All Too Much (2018) articulate passion, but the passion rather tragically is for Emin’s often failed sexual relationships.
A Fortnight of Tears is being lauded as Emin’s ‘most honest show yet’. It is a vast collection of candid work that leaves us with a powerful message from Emin herself in the final piece of the exhibition. In her previously mentioned film How It Feels (1996) Emin says: “The essence of creativity, that moment of conception…the whole being of everything…it had to be about where it was really coming from”.
The exhibition is open from the 6th February to the 7th April.
Words, Madelene Aldridge
Images, White Cube – Tracey Emin