Tracey Emin's expo: touch, memory, and sex
In both spaces of the Xavier Hufkens gallery, the English artist Tracey Emin presents recent drawings, paintings, and sculptures in which she seeks to transcend loss and longing in a light and ethereal manner.
Tracey Emin’s art is an extension of herself, of her emotions, her essence, her dreams, her fantasies. The enfant terrible of the Young British Artists in the 1990s has always made her personal life and her intimacy the subtext of her work. Her exhibition at Xavier Hufkens includes drawings, paintings, and sculptures created, partly, during the troubled period that followed the death of her mother. However, she conveys no sadness, nor sense of abandonment. If her aim is to express loneliness and loss, she does so with a light and gentle touch.
Paradoxically, the memory of touch that she refers to in the title is, for her, the least concrete memory, almost inaccessible except for in dreams. Or in painting. Expressionistic and vibrant, her paintings and drawings always depart from an intense emotion or life experience, even if the final product isn’t always that easy for the viewer to identify, especially since she likes to return to parts of a canvas that no longer speak to her.
She paints like a tightrope-walker, always looking for the right moment to end her painting. If anecdote and emotion are essential to her desire to paint, they are never the subject, which she intends to be more universal. Her silhouettes, nearly always female, have no faces but they do have genitalia. The face sometimes disappears behind a patch of colour, a cluster of strokes, or two lines caressing the oval of the face like two vines searching for some flesh to cling to.
The work in bronze is quite a recent addition to her oeuvre. The impressive piece All I Want Is You suggests a body emerging from clay, as if unfinished. As you move around it, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the softness conveyed by the area between the base of the back and the slope of the buttocks, which seems to be charged with an energy that illuminates the entire sculpture.
The most poignant piece, and the most explicit, is the only photo on display. That of a semi-naked woman, lying face-down on the white sheets of an anonymous bed. We do not see a face. Her arm is gathered under her. Maybe she is dead, maybe she is masturbating. Its title, the same as that of the exhibition, expresses the intangible and private nature of memory. Solitary and rebellious, Emin is also romantic and says so in a poem in neon letters declaring that she wants to make love in a field of flowers.
In the second space, Emin presents a film and a series of drawings in unapologetically small format. Arranged in lines, they form a sort of intimate storyboard. In many drawings, there is a point where the lines become entangled, churning, like the eye of a cyclone. Often there are female genitalia. You know, life.
> Tracey Emin: The Memory of your Touch. > 21/10, Xavier Hufkens Gallery, Brussels