Stone Love defines a definitive next step for Tracey Emin, the already prolific artist whose now-three-decade long career has delivered a particular example of artistic sincerity and introspection throughout a wide range of artistic forms and formats. Constantly returning to her own ambitious urge for self-discovery and contemplation, Emin’s body of work translates pristine and emphatic human instincts through her own intuitive lens. Referring to the first sentence in David Bowie’s 1972 song Soul Love, the exhibition considers alternate possibilities for love—arguably the most complex yet by far the most undertaken subject in art and literature.
As the news in the run-up to this exhibition often dwelled on, Emin recently married a stone near her coastal studio (a scene depicted in one of her pieces), which she sees as a permanent object that will serve as a source of eternal fortitude. “Being in love with a stone is monumental”, Emin has said, walking through the exhibition of her signature neon texts, gouache on paper drawings and bronze sculptures, as well as some embroidery. Stone renders a land of possibilities where loving singlehandedly nourishes its subject, unrestrained by societal or physical norms for desire. As much as humanistic and philosophical, Emin’s narrative for the exhibition conveys her personal journey and her current emotional map as an artist and human being.
Emin, stripping the restraints and impositions of physical love between two parties, approaches the phenomenon as an endeavor and, to some degree, a duty, waiting to be fulfilled. Loving to love, as its own virtue, celebrated by David Bowie, leads Emin’s work towards an elimination of a desired object of affection. Yet at the same time, the stone, appears in its original definition, as well as allegorizing transcendence beyond what is tactile and mundane.
Reading Just Let Me Love You in Emin’s own handwriting, the namesake neon piece is in conversation with bronze sculpture of an abstracted female figure, with her vulva facing the artist’s declaration of unrequited love, as if building an ephemeral bound between words and images both catering to her acclimation to an inner journey rather than an externalized ideal. Channeling one of her most iconic works, Everyone I’ve Slept With (1963-95), the show also includes a series of embroidered illustrations of female forms, which Emin appliqués mostly based on photographs of her nude self in various positions. Tying the meticulous process of knitting with equally determined efforts invested in carnal infatuation and self-awareness, these large scale calicos deepen the dialogue around the mediative and eventually fruitful state of embarking on a journey—be it embroidering or falling in love.
Tracey Emin: Stone Love is on view at Lehmann Maupin through June 18, 2016.
— O.C. Yerebakan
Lehmann Maupin [Exhibition Page]
W Magazine [Tracey Emin Talks Her Past and Marrying a Stone (Literally)]