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'No Bedtime story'

Expressionism and Emin



The Book: Tracey Emin – Angel Without you, & dvd: BBC4 Mark Lawson talks to… Tracey Emin


Looking at Tracey Emin as an Expressionist has been invaluable in helping me explain what I want to achieve in my own work, for she is an integral part of her artwork. She opposes the Modernist idea that the ‘author is dead’. The things we have in common within our art are the narrative, intimate and personal histories, the handmade, diaries, reference to lived experience, confessional and self-revelation. Furthermore, my work is similar because it is spontaneous, conversational and requires empathy from the viewer. I am trying to recreate traumatic experiences and memories in an emotional and direct way. My work deals with abuse, especially the self-abuse of memory.


Written thoughts are important in expressing a voice as Gary Indiana wrote of Emin,


“'Writing is my friend and companion and where my thoughts go'. All of her works start with an internal dialogue” p196.


The words I use are diaristic and express this ‘internal dialogue’ that I use to try and comfort and make sense of my surroundings and situation, as Emin herself says that writing is a great way to heal. I include text within my art, influenced by my background in creative writing, diaries, children’s books and song writing. This is a vital part of who I am as a person and how I articulate and express my feelings and ideas.


Emin links art to catharticism, as Indiana writes,


“Emin’s confessional writings stem from the Sufi practice that encourages journeying back into one’s past to identify personal demons and isolate sources of emotional anguish. By writing about her… abuse Emin aimed to purge herself of past traumas and self-destructive tendencies” p198


It is her candid and psychological approach that I identify so strongly with, and the idea that “my work is not worth much without me to talk about it” (above dvd). Similarly I like to talk about my work and to reveal what it means to me, as the original meaning is serious and important.


Emin communicates in a human way, and this emotional connection is something I value in my work. She expresses her personality within her work, and uses her own experiences to anchor ideas of gender and human behaviour.


I like her colloquial phrases sewn into her wall banners (see above). For me this shows that anger is a very natural response to life and that is it is not necessarily a negative thing. It is said that she brings a 'compassion' and humanity into the art world and I think that this is vital.

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