Tracey Emin may not have won the Turner Prize for her unmade bed, but she is a local hero in Margate, almost single handedly promoting the regeneration of this shabby seaside town. Emin looks ecstatic as she, yet again became the centre of attention, saying carrying the Olympic torch was an overwhelming experience. The artist ran with the flame yesterday (19 July) through her hometown in Kent England during the Torch Relay leg between Margate and Westgate-On-Seathe. She then posed on the steps of the Turner Contemporary art gallery which is currently showing a large exhibition of her drawings, paintings and sculpture. Emin said the experience had been “like the most surreal dream you can ever imagine” — and exhausting. She added that “it’s a long way. I haven’t run since about 1978.”
Her current Margate exhibition entitled, ‘She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea’, consists of work specially produced for this show which is part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Emin wanted it to be different from her 2011 Hayward Gallery Retrospective. As the exhibition is free she sees it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to show her work in this brand new space, sandwiched between two giants of art history: Turner and Rodin. Rodin’s marble sculpture of The Kiss has been loaned here for a year and sits in the lobby set against the most romantic of backdrops in the Kent coastline and the vast expanse of sand, sea and sky. Emin says the backdrop is even more romantic when the waves reach 30ft high.
The work in the exhibition features gouaches, neons, monoprints, embroideries, sculptures and tapestries. As with most of her oeuvre the subject of love, sex and eroticism presides but the overall feeling is that a more grown-up Emin is evident, one who is less angry at the world. The title of the exhibition in aquamarine blue is situated in the stairwell creating a moody introduction to the gallery space. A second neon in green, situated on the balcony overlooking the sea, consists of a horizontal figure while a small painting on the wall next to it reads I Said No. The juxtaposition of words and drawings continues in the next gallery where poignant messages such as The confusion is I Love you, No temptation no love and I am telling you it hurt are set against a series of gouache drawings. You do come away impressed by Emin’s output. However, it is at times uneven but the way it is displayed makes it impressive. The works are multi hung and scattered on the large walls with high ceilings bathed in natural light creating an emotional energy. My favourite pieces were the tapestries including Thank you and Keeping You in Mind sewn in subtle colours of greys, yellows, beige and pinks and the embroidered works on calico. I found the last room with the two sculptures Dead Sea and Self Portrait with my Eyes Closed to be the least impressive but maybe this was after having seen the beautiful and moving Rodins in the previous gallery. The exhibition runs until 23 September