24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
In her latest exhibition, the often-outspoken artist reflects on her cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery...
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
In her latest exhibition, the often-outspoken artist reflects on her cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery...
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
In her latest exhibition, the often-outspoken artist reflects on her cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery...
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
In her latest exhibition, the often-outspoken artist reflects on her cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery...
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
In her latest exhibition, the often-outspoken artist reflects on her cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery...
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
In her latest exhibition, the often-outspoken artist reflects on her cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery...
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
In her latest exhibition, the often-outspoken artist reflects on her cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery...
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
In her latest exhibition, the often-outspoken artist reflects on her cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery...
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

Thanks for reading
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24/06/2022
Reviews
Bea Hannay-Young
Tracey Emin: A Journey to Death
In her latest exhibition, the often-outspoken artist reflects on her cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery...
Gallery Three of the Exhibition. From L-R: The Mistress from Death (2022), We Fell From the Sky (2022), and Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022)

“How many of you have seen death in the face?” Tracey Emin asked, addressing a transfixed crowd gathered outside the opening to the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate. “How many of you have seen death in the face, and changed your life? Or had an epiphany?”. 

Last year, while the rest of us were grappling with the threat of illness every time we stepped outside, Emin (who is now 58) was waging a far more internal battle. In 2020 Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Thankfully the artist has since been given the all clear - but only after a series of risky operations which removed her bladder, her womb, parts of her intestines and half of her vagina. Emin may have had a reputation for being bombastically outspoken, but her courageous documentation of her illness belied a vulnerability and frankness which ought to have swayed even her most ardent critics. As well as talking openly about her struggle, she posted regular updates to Instagram, sharing semi-nude selfies with hospital tubes and her urostomy bag, which she will need to wear for the rest of her life. On a platform where life is so often portrayed as manicured and curated, Emin was sharing her slow road to recovery in all its ugly, messy, painful glory. 

In Like the Moon, You Rolled Across My Back (2022) Emin is burdened by the weight of the moon - a traditionally feminine symbol - similar to how Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders

Emin went on to describe the exhibition as her “swan song’. It allows not only a visual documentation of her illness and recovery similar to her aforementioned hospital photo diary, but also a raw exposure to her psyche - each painting allows you to feel intensely the artist's catharsis, as though she is painting out her anger and sorrow. The show, which is called a Journey to Death, presents 26 self-portraits all in a dark monochrome, with the occasional aggressive smear of blue. While this undoubtedly gives an emotional as well as a visual darkness to her work, the overall impression is not one of pessimism. Perhaps my one critique of this show would be its title. Emin’s near-death epiphany, she said, was her intense desire to live, to keep working, to not only survive but to thrive. This primal urge to live courses wildly through each portrait like a heartbeat. The exhibition is not a journey to death, but a race away from it.

Emin frankly explores her altered body in It Never Felt Like This Before (2022)

Emin’s choice of recreating her face and form feels something akin to a very quiet revolution. Despite feminist progress in the arts from the mid 20th century, the idea of the nude is very much one which is centered around the male gaze; women are supposed to be a careful balance of contradictions - beautiful (but modest), nude and with the implication of sex (but never overt or open). Perhaps most of all, women in nudes are usually passive and silent. Emin’s works are totally and unapologetically none of these things. While there is no doubt that the paintings are all stunningly beautiful, Emin’s form itself is often twisted and strained - in one painting her mouth tears open in a silent wail reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In another she reclines almost as an odalisque, but her legs are splayed open as she masturbates. The painting is called ‘It never felt like this before’. It is heartbreaking, but also wonderfully refreshing, to see a woman painting her real self in all its ugly and pained reality. 

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