FOr a woman I’ve only met from a distance of about 10 minutes, I’ve seen Tracy Emin’s bottom a lot. I’ve seen it in ink, paint, bronze, and film. Sometimes it is pink and graceful, at other times it tends to provoke or into the grip of a lover. He appears in much of Emin’s new work in Jupiter Artland in I Lay Here For You, which includes sculptures, individual models, paintings, and work on paper, detailing the artist’s recovery and rediscovery of love after suffering from bladder cancer.
Not to confuse the artist with the subject, but there is no doubt here whether Emin – even in the works in which her face is painted, the artist is there, and invited us (in every sense of the word) to the most intimate crevices of her life. Her bed and the life-affirming activities that took place in it are the subject of 11 one-of-a-kind styles created in 2022, the nicknames I Know You Loved Me – I know because I Loved You Too and because I’m so Fucking Sexy. I was born sexy and will die sexy I read like diary entries.
Meanwhile, fully clothed and animated Emin sits atop a large bronze statue she created for the expansive Jupiter Artland theme parks, discussing her mother’s influence on her decision to try big new pieces. She laughs, “When she died, I was so sad, it was like — well, damn it.” “Life is short, go for it, do it because if you screw it up, screw it up. It’s OK.” There is no separation between Emin – the charismatic and deeply honest artist – from the abstract figure who appears in ink, canvas and bronze. This weakness is incredibly strong, and it only intensified in the aftermath of her cancer surgery.
I lie here for you is almost a sequel to Journey to Death Currently on display at Margate Where Emin showed her first selected works since her illness. Where the first gallery was teetering on the brink of life, this new gallery in Scotland is a step into the future, one infused with pleasure rather than pain. In nearly every single pattern, two intertwined shapes, nearly indistinguishable from one another, smudges appear under their bodies to indicate repetitive motion. The series appears to be based on the memories of someone who helped Emine during her recovery.
Each individual style begins with the same stone background of Emin’s bed and the individual bedroom scenes are added by the artist using Indian ink. The very choice of backdrop on which to add a cheery couple, a bedside table, a rug, a lamp, or some medical equipment documents the constant ebb and flow of human contact. Anyone who has invited another person to their bed will recognize the overwhelming solitude of staring into the night in their sleep, the frenetic energy of making early love, the security of cuddling and the perfect stillness that descends when lonely but lovable.
When paired with the haunting titles of You Just Kept Wanting Me to Don’t Touch Me – Not Even In Your Dreams, the monograms are a celebration of the compulsion of human intimacy unparalleled in its ability to destroy and restore, even in a very short period of time. In the second exhibition – the ballroom – the couple reappears on a small, colorful canvas entitled “I Keep Bleeding”. Drenched in a violent red, the pair of spoons are laid adrift on a white bed, clinging to one another—not in passion, but in a united attempt to restrain the suffering.
The bed appears twice more in this space but is empty, devoid of lovers or those recovering from illness. Bathed in the pink light of dusk and neatly arranged with fluffy white sheets, the beds are muted and still, signaling a transition, not into something serious, but into a new season of outdoor activity. Here are some large, lively paintings with thick line drawings of the female figure in all its fleshy glory, but it is the small portraits of family that draw me across the ballroom to gaze at the sacred walls of the bedroom where we are our most private selves. The small plate of the vagina is more eye-catching, right from the inside.
A short distance from the galleries lies a six-meter-high nude bronze woman, her face resting on the floor, sternly raised, her hand ecstatically directed. Trapped in the woods, she avoids eye contact, and despite sharing her name with the gallery – I’m laying here for you – I can’t help but feel that she forgot to wait for “you” in her place. This is a unique, larger-than-life character, who escaped from the shackles of a bed, seeking pleasure in the expanse of the woods, pleasing herself, and braved the idea of falling into a vulnerable position. Reminds me of an artist we know.