Tracey Emin, Self Portrait with my Eyes Closed (2012), Courtesy of White Cube Gallery
Tracey Emin’s work inaugurated the new White Cube space in São Paulo, Brazil on December 1st, 2012 with her show I Don’t Believe in Love but I Believe in You.
Her recent works seem to embody a coming of age, perhaps even paralleling the growth of the gallery itself. The new pieces appear to have a new found calm and tranquility beneath her common narratives of love and sex. The exhibition has a quiet resonance that suggests the fruition of a lifetime’s work, setting the tone of the new venture.
Tracey Emin, The Beginning of Me (2012), Courtesy of White Cube Gallery
Emin was born in 1963 and emerged as a ‘Young British Artist’ in the 1990s. She has also represented Great Britain in the 52nd Venice Biennale during the course of her career. Despite the various media that Emin makes employs, the content of her work remains strictly narrative. She relates almost all of her biographical pieces back to her sexual desires. This recent work however, is less overtly sexualized.
There is an apparent poignancy and a tone of acceptance in the mixed media work and neon pieces. The pink neon handwritten note that reverberates the title of the show eludes to a certain self awareness and personal history, more mature than older work such as ‘I dream of sleep’ and ‘I never wanted to leave you x’. The positive diction is this time the emphasis of her show, a collection of melancholic self portraits with loose brushwork, punctuated by new sculptural pieces.
The title phrase is based on the notation she made on the back of a sketchbook that is also being shown. This work echoes Those who Suffer Love (2010), a stop-motion animation of a woman masturbating. Emin describes this work as a visual description of a woman’s loneliness and simultaneous suffering; however Emin also references herself here rather than her past sexual conquests, in a definite progression of self.
The sculptures in the exhibition serve as landmarks of sorts; Dead Sea (2012) for example, echoes her 1996 work My Bed, consisting of a stained mattress upon which a single, bronzed branch lays. Rather than celebrating her sexual, promiscuous identity, this piece serves as a more sophisticated representation of Emin’s persona – the bronze medium suggests value, and the fact it is strewn across the mattress so artfully hints at an elegance and grace opposed to her older, more ‘rough and ready’ pieces. This progression into a more reserved genre of works continues throughout the show. Secret of the World (2012) consists of a bronze cast pomegranate; the sturdy, metal skin embodies her resilience to the world, and the vunerable inner center which she nonetheless offers up as well.
Tracey Emin, Secret of the world (2012), Courtesy of White Cube Gallery
A larger-than-life sculpture of Emin with eyes closed sits in reverie overlooking the gallery, provides a solemn ending to her ‘retrospective’ of sorts. Despite all the works in the exhibition being new, they pay homage to her biography as an artist, and indeed as a person. Throughout her many years artistic practice, Emin has presented a façade of sexuality and used her womanhood to define her persona. The current exhibition shows an Emin who has perhaps worked through a lingering teenage angst and longing. Despite the reserved nature of these works, the show is ironically one of her most controversial due to her diversion from the ‘sex’ that previously defined her. In the words of Emin herself, “I’m not drawn to the erotic. I’m confused by it. There is very little in my life that is sexual or erotic. It’s more to do with memory. I’m more interested in love.” (ARTnews, May 2012)