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Monday 15 August 2011

Love is What You Want

For my summer holidays this year I am going on two holidays. Firstly to London (where I grew up) and later to Northumberland where I have never been. It’s been a great holiday so far, visiting family and friends but also there has been time for a little bit of culture. First stop was the wonderful Cartoon Museum really close to the British Museum, hidden away on Little Russell Street. I am not really a comic reader but I did enjoy seeing the original drawings of so many familiar comic strips and the Hogarth satirical cartoons are brilliant; definitely worth a visit.

Today though I went to Tracey Emin’s Love is What You Want at the Hayward gallery (18th May-29th August). I have a soft spot for Emin as embroidery and appliqué dominate her work and I love cloth and stitches.

This show isn’t an easy show to see. There is, as you would expect, an awful lot of text to read and you have to take time to read her words and digest the work; the content may also be difficult for some to deal with.

Walking around I did wonder whether I had had my fill of Emin as she always uses her own life as the starting point for her art. Her work is so personal that, for some pieces, I did not know if I wanted to delve into her world. Her response to her abortions feature heavily in the show for example. But being the Artist she is, it is hard not to resist.

The exhibition includes work from over her career and she uses many different media, including textiles, film, prints, neon lights and wooden structures. Some of her work I found too sentimental such as the film of her and her dad running through the waves in Cyprus. However the film which included her mum talking to Tracey about Tracey not having children is compelling. Her loving mum rejoicing that Tracey had her abortions and doesn’t have children was unusual to see.

The piece of work which has stayed with me the most is her 2002 piece ‘Knowing My Enemy’. It was more her need to respond to a letter her dad had sent her when he was trying to steer her away from drink than the actual structure she built. It was, like her father’s, her longing to find a place to be happy that really touched me, and her suggestion of a missing presence.

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