https://iiiimag.com/articles/the-500-br-tracey-emin-a-fortnight-of-tears

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The 500
Tracey Emin - A Fortnight of Tears

Jordan Harrison-Twist

19.02.19

Tracey Emin, 'A Fortnight of Tears' (2018), Acrylic on canvas

All laid out — the carnival of matted eyelashes, slicks of mascara, and sleep (the powdery kind), the sediments of the back of the face explode from their chambers in rest or in violence, and catch the momentous vulnerability in their pyroclastic flows: a betrayal framed forever between cruel picture-frame fingers: naked shame before or under the lens. It is a shame that travels in the channels cut by the fluids, also deplorably transmitted in the act, an alien shame which digs itself into the nape of your neck and under your teeth, in the threads of your eyes, swims unwashed in your breath, leaves its butter under your fingernails.

It is Tracey Emin’s way to give form to these feelings. The mode, so often attributed to her, of the confessional. The mode, so often mistrusted by her critics, of the self-centred. Indeed Emin does not appear to remove herself from this label (accusation?); she seems offended by the suggestion that Matisse’s cutout motifs bear a resemblance to her reclining figures — (they do) — she claims this figure is not borrowed, at least consciously, that this figure is how her animus looks. She seems enraged at the suggestion that her work about rape has taken on a new currency with #MeToo and Time’s Up, that she has always pleaded with women who have suffered sexual violence to come forward, that secrecy is worse, that (as she said at the press preview) the ‘rape of yourself is the worst rape of all’. Reliving such an event is a brutal invocation, unimaginable even to touch at a remove, but ‘hanging it from the walls’, says Emin, is to take control of it — whether that ‘it’ be the poison left there in the first instance, or, once (if?) that poison is extracted, the life it leaves behind.

Tracey Emin, 'The Mother' (2017), Bronze

Her paintings are some mixture of authority and vulnerability. I can never tell the measures. A triptych in her show A Fortnight of Tears at White Cube Bermondsey — I Watched You Disappear, Pink Ghost; I Was Too Young To Be Carrying Your Ashes; and You Were Still There — depicts three indistinct figures on bald canvas in canthaxanthin pink, crimson, and puce red; raw, and not so much hanging from the wall as exposed, as if the plaster has been pulled back to reveal bagged and bound corpses, a museum of the mined, an interior space that though given willingly by Emin, appears as if it were first invaded by others.

Shrinking from the impetus of these works — the deaths of her mother and father, her rape as a teenager, her abortion — is not an option. She binds her work too tightly to herself.

It is that she is so singular in her estimations that makes her great. She is present in every hair’s touch of the canvas, in every mottle or pore of oil. Every historian’s comparisons to de Kooning and Twombly feed only this immaculate sense of plagued self. Extracting paint from burst ducts after her Fortnight of Tears. Thrashing in molten bronze to shape The Mother, a golem that looks as if she cooled as she fell, settling in the imprint of her daughter’s bereavement.

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