I have been reading various reviews of the Tracy Emin exhibition, which is frustratingly in Edinburgh, rather a long way to go.
I have seen quite a lot of her work, starting with the tent with the Names of Everyone I have Slept With stitched all over it at the Serpentine some years ago. It was quite a shock in a challenge kind of way, the rest of the exhibition was progressive textile work, but I kept returning to circle and peer into the little enclosed space.
At first I was dismissive, anyone can stitch, not very neatly, names of far too many men onto this unprepossessing surface. It took some time to twig that the names included Everyone she had slept with, - her family, her friends, the foetus from her abortion.
The enclosed space, womblike itself, became a more tender enclosure, the rough stitching a much stronger expression of all the feelings that the names anchored into the fabric. I had never heard of her, but I thought she had used the shape and the stitching to communicate so much to me. Moreover it was textile art, definitely not craft, [the materials and finish were not paramount}
As with most of her work I felt it wasn't just her life, it was an aspect of female experience that she was representing. She gave the terrible mess we make of our lives from when we are adolescent - status and understanding, instead of guilt and dismissal.
Since then I have tried to see what she does next, not usually too difficult as she also has excellent skills in doing work that gets noticed by its notoriety rating. As with most contemporary artists she deals in life & death and identity and sex, but perhaps she gets more stick than most because it is female angst that she explores.
I find her work disturbing because she excavates all the feeling and fears I have experienced and now try to forget, and don't have the courage to explore in my stuff. I sit on my hill hoping I won't have to face any more hard work, just yet.
Contemporary art requires we bring our feeling and thoughts to the piece, it literally doesn't "paint a picture" . To make themselves heard artists have to have a status in this celebrity culture, make a splash. damian hurst's diamond encrusted skull says it all to me death and terrible beauty - the futility of trying to grasp riches, at the same time that he does it himself an annoying contradiction that worms and burrows into ones consciousness.
Tracy Emin is confessional, on one level exploitatively so, but also honest. I am not sure how I would react to rooms and rooms of her howls of out rage, it may seem too one note, i would love to find out.