You can’t help but admire Tracey Emin’s for wanting to use her name and art for the good in reviving her home town of Margate. She is very passionate in her belief and has a dream that all the fish and chip shops will run out of food as a result of the amount of people coming to Margate to visit her exhibition at the Turner Contemporary Gallery.
The Turner Contemporary Gallery is impressive sitting right on the beach in Margate. Built by David Chipperfield Architects and opened to the public on 16 April 2011, to date over 540,000 people have visited the gallery with an economic impact in excess of £13.9 million to the Kent economy. As a result, in the last 18 months 35 new businesses have opened in the Old Town and existing businesses have seen a dramatic increase in footfall, while estate agents are reporting a boost of interest in the town.
The exhibition itself, 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.
Emin herself specially selected the curated room of watercolours by J M W Turner and Auguste Rodin. The erotic works created from a male perspective on the female figure either as an object of beauty or with lust and desire are unusually set against Emin’s figures from the female perspective reflecting her internal thoughts and emotions. These works show Emin’s fascination with classical art and historical references from cave paintings to Picasso, Matisse, Turner and Rodin fill the works in the whole show and give more credence to her place in art history. Despite any shortcomings the show is one of the must see events for the summer. Ruth Mackenzie, Director, Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, said: “Tracey Emin’s first major exhibition in her home town of Margate at the wonderful new Turner Contemporary gallery is precisely the kind of once-in-a-lifetime event that is the special characteristic of the London 2012 Festival. We are delighted that the exhibition is free so that everybody will have the chance to join in something they may never experience again. We want this to be a summer of unforgettable art as well as sport.”
Words: Sara Faith Photo: Paul Carter Robinson © ArtLyst 2012
Tracey Emin She Lay Down Deep Beneath The Sea exhibition at Turner Contemporary, Margate until 23 September 2012