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  • James Stewart

Artist in Focus - Tracey Emin

These Feelings Were True (2020) by Tracy Emin, self portrait lithograph.
These Feelings Were True (2020) by Tracy Emin, self portrait lithograph.

Tracey Emin became known widely over 25 years ago, alongside Damien Hirst, Angus Fairhurst and Sarah Lucas as one of the YBA’s (Young British Artists).

She is known for her autobiographical and confessional work and creates work in a number of media including: drawing, painting, sculpture, film, photography, neon text and sewn appliqué.

In December 2011, she was appointed Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy; with Fiona Rae she is one of the first two female professors since the Academy was founded in 1768.

Emin's influences include Edvard Munch (with whom she had a joint exhibition at the RA in 2020) and Egon Schiele.

Everyone I Ever Slept With (1997) by Tracy Emin from the Sensation Exhibition at the Royal Academy
Everyone I Ever Slept With (1997) by Tracy Emin from the Sensation Exhibition at the Royal Academy

The ‘Sensation’ exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997 included her piece ‘Everyone I have Ever Slept With’, a tent embroidered with names of her partners.

The piece was famously bought by Charles Saatchi but then sadly destroyed in the Momart warehouse fire in 2004.

From the start Tracey Emin, and her work, have split opinions, like marmite you either love her work or you hate it. We like it, and have exhibited her editions for over 12 years, including work we exhibited at the London Print Fair in 2009.

More and more people seem to like her work too and appreciate that it is not just gratuitous, but deep and meaningful.

Madonna said in 2004, after receiving a UK Music Hall of Fame Award from Emin: Tracey Emin is ”intelligent and wounded and not afraid to expose herself. She is provocative but she has something to say”.

Tracey Emin also works incredibly hard, last year she had a major exhibition of paintings, bronzes and other work at the White Cube called ‘A Fortnight of Tears’ recalling her feelings on the death of her mother.

The White Cube exhibition included large bronze sculptures, neon, painting, film, photography and drawing. All pieces focussed on the artist’s own memories and emotions arising from loss, pathos, anger and love.

See 'The Wedding', a rare small bronze by Tracey Emin created in 2019, the same year as the White Cube exhibition. Artworks from this period focussed on the artist’s own memories and emotions arising from loss, pathos, anger and love. This small bronze is cast from an original clay form showing a figure in a (wedding) dress seated with her head bowed.

In 2020 Tracey Emin battled (& subsequently beat) cancer, but has also worked on a major exhibition currently at the Royal Academy ‘The Loneliness of the Soul’ - Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch’.

The exhibition, which runs from May to August 2021, features more than 25 of Emin’s works including paintings, some of which will be on display for the first time, as well neons and sculpture. These works, which explore the loneliness of the soul, have been chosen by Emin to sit alongside a carefully considered selection of 18 oils and watercolours drawn from Munch’s rich collection and archives in Oslo, Norway.

Emin has been a major figure in contemporary art for over 25 years; Munch pioneered a radical new style known as Expressionism. This exhibition firmly places Tracey Emin’s oeuvre within this context in contemporary art history.

For those who enjoy Podcasts, we recommend ‘Talk Art’ hosted by actor Russell Tovey and Gallerist Robert Diament. In November they interviewed Tracey Emin during an ‘intimate, private tour’ of her current RA Exhibtion alongside works by Edvard Munch.

We have a small selection of editions by Tracey Emin, see the available works on her Artists page and in our Editions Shop:

A four colour lithograph on Somerset Velvet Warm White 400gsm. Published by Counter Editions in 2021.

60 x 76 cm (23.6 x 29.9 in), edition of 100.

Signed, titled, numbered and dated by the artist

This edition, printed at the Counter Studios in Tracey Emin's hometown of Margate, Kent was created to celebrate Tate Modern’s 21st anniversary.

Tracey Emin, along with seven other leading international artists, were asked to create a print. For her Tate Modern 21 Years print Tracey Emin returns to one of most iconic motifs - the bed. Here a female nude figure kneels, head bowed. A hesitant outline of another figure appears to be laying before her with the bed providing a shared space of private intimacy.

’No Time for Love’ (2020) unframed

A three Colour lithographic print on Somerset Velvet Warm White 400gsm. 86 x 69 cm, edition of 75, signed, numbered, and dated by the artist

Produced by Counter Studios, Margate in support of the Oasis Women’s Refuge.

Showing an image of a women curled up, the text in red reads “You went away and you knew the truth. There is no time left here-no time for love or surrender”

‘True Love Always Wins’ (2016) Framed

A four colour lithograph on Somerset 300 gsm velvet white paper, produced by Pauper Press in 2016.

Edition of 300, 76 x 60 cm signed, numbered and dated by the artist. True Love Always Wins was created to celebrate Team GB’s participation in the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tracey’s lithograph features Rio’s iconic statue Christ, The Redeemer.

The snaking mountain road symbolises the winding journey to achieve true love, represented by Christ’s outstretched arms at the summit. The work carries particular poignancy given Tracey’s recent marriage to a rock: true love may not be what one expects, but it will always prevail. True Love Always Wins encapsulates the optimism and positive energy that drives Team GB athletes and their supporters, and acts as an inspirational statement of hope and faith for all.

‘Blue Madonna’ (2020) Unframed, £12,000

This three colour lithograph is from a series of eight powerful, evocative and moving self portraits by Tracey Emin. These extraordinary, initimate explorations of the self were created in the Counter Editions Margate studio.

See also 'After the Shadow' below.

‘After the Shadow’ (2020) Unframed,

This two colour lithograph is from a series of eight powerful, evocative and moving self portraits by Tracey Emin. Tracey Emin and Edvard Munch’s major exhibition ‘The Loneliness of the Soul’ opened at the Royal Academy in May 2021 and runs to August 2021.

Emin's lithographs reflect her ongoing commitment to truthful self-observation, both emotional and corporeal. The more familiar scratchy, monoprint style has evolved into fluid, fuller lines, and the figure is now more woman than girl.

‘When I Think About Sex’ (2005) Signed Book

A 24 page publication that Jay Jopling and White Cube put out to accompany the ‘When I Think About Sex’ Exhibition in May - June 2005. Photography by Hugo Glendinning and Stephen White. Only 100 copies were signed in Pencil by Tracey Emin. This copy also has the Year - 2005 - beside her signature. It's Design is by Murray & Sorrell of FUEL, and with an excellent essay Tracey Emin, A Particular Honesty by Rudi Fuchs.

Foundlings and Fledglings - Our Angels of this Earth (2007) is a white china teapot with silkscreen.

Edition of 1000, 16 x 23 x 16 cm, each one comes with a certificate signed by the artist.

This piece was originally released to coincide with Emin representing Britain at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007.

In 2023 Tracey Emin opened her own art school in Margate, the Kent seaside town where she’s from: TEAR (Tracey Emin Artist Residencies), where the first year’s intake of 10 young artists from around the world are already settling in. It also provides affordable work spaces for professional artists, called Tracey Emin Studios.

This and her enormous body of work in a range of mediums will secure her legacy as one of the UK's most influential artists.


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