Tracey Emin: “What you see is what I am”

Tracey Emin’s raw unpretentiousness – and the use she’s made of her life in her work – has captured the nation’s attention for 20 years. But its brilliance lies in its use of words.

This unpretentiousness has made Emin a national symbol. Her uncodedness, her frankness, her direct use of her own life in her work, have made her a repository, in the media and to some extent in the general public’s eye, for all that’s contentious in contemporary art. It’s easy to dismiss, simplistically, her complex and redolent use of self-portraiture as ego-posturing. But the thing is, there’s no pinning her down. There’s no reducing Emin. No matter how – or how much – the media strings her up (one minute lunatic, the next the new William Blake), her work engages the nation, and has engaged it now for more than 20 years, in a dialogue about art and life and the crossovers between both. It does this at what might be called a language-sensitive place. She is multitalented, multifaceted; aesthetically endlessly versatile; there’s no form she won’t try. Somehow nothing circumscribes her.

Tracey Emin: Love Is What You Want is at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London SE1 (0844 875 0073), from 18 May to 29 August 2011.

(Source: Grauniad)

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