Considered one of the most well-known of the YBAs (Young British Artists) who rose to fame in the 1990s, Tracey Emin’s intensely personal work encompasses a range of materials and techniques including painting, mono-prints, sculpture, film, photography, embroidery and neon. Characterized by a highly autobiographical and confessional style, Emin’s work blurs the boundaries between art and life and has often led critics to struggle to define the line between true autobiography and artistic presentation of life-inspired events in Emin’s work.
Emin’s candid work often combines both sadness and humour in its representation of personal experiences, desires and memories, which explore desire, love, relationships, family, emotional and psychological states. Often annotating her work with - or creating works solely from - text, the misspelling that frequently characterizes Emin’s work adds to the conception that her work is born from spontaneous, and at times cathartic, outpours.
Emin’s ’bad girl’* attitude, which resonates throughout her highly personal and sexually explicit work, locates Emin’s oeuvre firmly within feminist discourse. Re-appropriating traditional domestic craft or ’women’s work’ for radical intentions, Emin’s work embodies the feminist dictum that the personal is political, and reconfigures craft based practice as high art.
Whilst the sex and angst that remain the dominant themes in her art have often stolen critical attention, Emin’s mono-prints and paintings are also testimony to her great skills in drawing. A highly accomplished draftswoman, Emin’s mono-prints and paintings also display an expressionist style, often likened to Schiele, Munch and German expressionists.
Tracey Emin was born in London in 1963, where she currently lives and works. She studied Printmaking at Maidstone College of Art, graduating with a first class honours BA in 1986, and subsequently studied Painting at the Royal College of Art, London. In 1999 Emin was nominated for the Turner Prize, where her exhibit My Bed - an installation which recreated the scene of her bedroom, installing her bed and surrounding detritus (dirty underwear, condoms and empty alcohol bottles) in the museum setting - famously caused outcry. In spite of her critics, Emin has gone on to become one of today’s most acclaimed artists, elected a Royal Academician in 2007 and chosen to represent Britain at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. Emin has exhibited extensively internationally, including solo and group exhibitions in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Japan, Australia, the United States and Chile. In 2008 Emin held her first major retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, which subsequently toured to Malaga (2008) and Bern (2009). In 2007 Emin was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art, London; a Doctor of Letters from the University of Kent; and Doctor of Philosophy from London Metropolitan University.
*The term ’Bad Girl’ was coined to describe women artists of the 1990s whose work displayed a rebellious, often sexually voracious attitude, which defied traditional notions of femininity and was associated with the ladette culture of the 1990s. The term is commonly associated with the artists exhibited in Bad Girls; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Part I: January 14 - February 27, 1994 & Part II: March 5 - April 10 1994, which traveled to Bad Girls; UCLA Wight Art Gallery, Los Angeles; January 25 -March 20 1994, and Bad Girls; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 7 October-5 December 1994. For theoretical discussions of ’Bad Girlism’ see for example Paula Smithard ’Grabbing the Phallus by the Balls: Recent Art by Women,’ Everything, 21 (1997), 5-9.and Katy Depwell’s ’Bad girls’? Feminist identity politics in the 1990s’ in J. Steyn (ed) Beyond Identity: Other Than Identity (Manchester University Press,1997)
Emin’s work will be exhibited in ROLLO Contemporary Art’s travelling exhibition The Body in Women’s Art Now: Part 2 - Flux.