English artist known for her autobiographical and confessional artwork. Emin produces work in a variety of media including drawing, painting, sculpture, film, photography, neon text and sewn appliqué. Once the "enfant terrible" of the Young British Artists in the 1980s, Tracey Emin is now a Royal Academician of the Royal Academy of Arts.
In 1997, her work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent appliquéd with the names of everyone the artist had ever shared a bed with was shown at Charles Saatchi's Sensation exhibition held at the Royal Academy in London. The same year, she gained considerable media exposure when she swore repeatedly in a state of drunkenness on a live discussion programme called The Death of Painting on British television.
In 1999, Emin had her first solo exhibition in the United States at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, entitled Every Part of Me's Bleeding. Later that year, she was a Turner Prize nominee and exhibited My Bed – a readymade installation, consisting of her own unmade dirty bed, in which she had spent several weeks drinking, smoking, eating, sleeping and having sexual intercourse while undergoing a period of severe emotional flux. The artwork featured used condoms and blood-stained underwear.
Emin is also a panellist and speaker: she has lectured at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney (2010), the Royal Academy of Arts (2008), and the Tate Britain in London (2005) about the links between creativity and autobiography, and the role of subjectivity and personal histories in constructing art. Emin's covers a variety of different media, including needlework and sculpture, drawing, video and installation, photography and painting.
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 lives in Spitalfields, east London.
It is the brutally direct way in which Tracey Emin communicates these details and opinions in her work that upsets so many of the male critics. It’s just not done to exhibit drawings of yourself scribbled with the words “Fuck me like a man” or neon lights spelling out “My cunt is wet with fear”, and even less to discuss your two abortions. 2009 etchings; Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘A Cunt is a Rose is a Cunt’. And; Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Rat Black Sperm’.
Less explicit nudes include the 2006 etching of Kate Moss; Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Kate’. And 2008 etching; Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘But Yea’.
Some have questioned whether such apparent unmediated outpourings can constitute art. And yet there is so clearly artistry involved. Apart from the obvious handiwork, there’s the crucial defining feature of an artwork: that it should not only represent life, but reveal something about it, too. Tracey Emin’s work may not do this for many of the men or metropolitan elite who despise it so much, that it articulates feelings for others in a way unique in fine art.
As Waldemar Januszczak, one of the few critics to offer support has written: “It’s a voice that has never been heard in art before, because the Professor Higginses who run the art world have never allowed it into art before.”
Of all Tracey Emin’s perceived offences though, it is her unashamed ambition and obvious delight in her fame and financial success which rankle with her critics most. In British cultural life it is considered vulgar to talk about yourself, still less to show off your wealth. Even though the reality of the starving artist in the garret is now rarely true, it is a fiction that people like to be kept up. Instead, Tracey Emin is the living embodiment of the Thatcher dream: she got off her backside and made something of herself. Some self portraits include; Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Self Portrait as a Small Bird’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Insane Reflection’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Tracey X Tracey’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Little Owl-Self Portrait’. The Owl motif is also appears in; Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘You Said What’. Animal motifs also appear in; Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘No Substitute for Your Love’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Space Monkey-We Have Lift Off’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘It’s What I’d Like To be’.
As a result, Tracey Emin has a smart house in Spitalfields and enough money never to work again. For working-class kids Tracey Emin’s example makes becoming an artist an aspiration on a par with becoming a footballer, which is not something the world of high culture, likes to think about.
Still, that won’t bother Tracey Emin. Last week’s recognition by the Tate will probably just confirm the opinion she so eloquently conveyed in a self-portrait of 2000, in which Tracey Emin is shown bundling wads of banknotes up her crotch. The title? ‘I’ve Got It All’.
Tracey Emin’s latest exhibition is at the Royal Academy of Art ‘Walking with Tears’ and exhibits her skills as a printmaker. Tracey Emin quotes “I’ve always had a love of printmaking because of the magic and alchemy of it all. You never really know how it’s going to be until you turn the paper over. I think that printmaking is a very intimate practice. These works vary in subject matter but all of them retain a quality of my line”.
Monoprint drawing and printmaking, and in particular etching, have been an important part of Tracey Emin’s creative output since the beginning of her life as an artist. Indeed, Tracey Emin’s works on paper form the backbone of the intimate and diaristic approach to her art. The immediacy of the line lends itself to the outpouring of dreams, memories and fantasies. Tracey Emin’s work is characterised by an honesty and directness that is often made poignant by her use of humour, using both image and text, and these qualities are especially vivid in Tracey Emin’s works on paper. Tracey Emin’s assured and rapid line drawings are perfectly suited to her preferred mediums, the soft ground etching and the monoprint, as both techniques produce the lightly textured, broken quality of line so strongly associated with Tracey Emin. As seen in; Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Brocken Heart’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Broken Heart’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Docket Loves Birds’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Dockets Bird Collection’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Sam and Jay’s Birds’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘See How They Grow’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Little Family’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Layed Back’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Illustrations from Memory 1994’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Totally Mad’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Always Being Mum’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Bleeding’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Hades Hades Hades’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘For Joseph Samuels 1981’.
Although Tracey Emin has returned to printmaking throughout her career, this is the first time she has presented an exhibition comprised exclusively of this medium, and features a selection of work from the past sixteen years, starting in 1994. The imagery ranges from explicit nudes to little birds and squirrels, motifs often interpreted as self-portraits. Tracey Emin continues to explore the medium with great intensity, and it is here where her imagery expresses itself in its most immediate form. As expressed in a series of prints published for the exhibition; Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘At Night’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Mother/Brother’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘No Time’. Tracey Emin, print, signed ‘Sleep Again’.