I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day in London yesterday with my friend Catherina. We met to go and see the Tracey Emin exhibition, Love is What You Want at the Hayward Gallery. I am aware that Tracey Emin is not everyone's cup of tea but I do believe opinions are often formed from what is gleaned from the tabloid press rather than from a knowledge of the woman and her art. It is often difficult to see beyond the grotesque celebrity status afforded to her (and admittedly also courted by her) in the media. But I found the exhibition to be diverse, interesting, poignant and witty. I didn't like or understand everything I saw but I did enjoy an awful lot of it.
Her range of media is extraordinarily diverse, ranging from neon signs, photography, film, embroidery, applique, painting and drawing but the linking thread is her storytelling. Emin is a prolific and often entertaining writer. Her writing is intimate, autobiographical and intensely personal but touches on those human experiences that we can all relate to.
Her drawings appear everywhere and are quite beautiful and sensitive. She draws most often through the medium of monoprinting which adds a quality of spontaneity to the work. There were also some stunning very large scale drawings worked in embroidery which I hadn't seen before that I found quite breathtaking.
There were two walls covered with her appliqued blankets and these were stunning to see close up. Again text and words are central to all these works - they are like oversized diary pages. For me, one of the most exciting things about Tracey Emin's art is how she uses textiles and embroidery just like she would any other media, elevating it from a position of feminine domestic craft to one of fine art. We wouldn't think to call her a "Textile Artist"
There is no doubt her work is often provocative and controversial but it has enormous integrity and I can admire her for that alone. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and at times extraordinarily moving exhibition.