Jackie Wullschlager uncovers the “fragile, childlike, almost ingratiating quality” of Tracey Emin during their Lunch with the FT click through to the story to get the best stuff as Emin emotes, brags and begs for attention:
The waiter interprets “any white wine” as the cheapest on offer: a crisp Sauvignon Blanc arrives speedily and Emin raises her glass to toast Carol Ann Duffy, whose appointment as poet laureate has just been announced. “She was up for it 10 years ago and didn’t get it because Tony Blair didn’t like her private life. Now a self-sufficient, openly gay woman has become poet laureate – it’s f***ing brilliant. Things are changing.” Duffy is 53 and one of Emin’s pet themes is that “women go on getting better. It’s like a light bulb, women burn and burn and burn, with men it’s just one big flash. At about 40, a male artist has this massive ejaculation and then the work – though not the prices – goes down. It goes back to the sex thing: women keep coming and coming, men just do it once. It’s a metaphor for life.”
Emin turns 46 in July and her new show, Those Who Suffer Love, is about sex in middle age. It centres on a short animation film of a woman masturbating. Emin shows me an image on the invitation card and we agree that the headless figure, drawn in her characteristic spidery lines, looks like a frog. “Masturbation is supposed to be self-appreciative but it’s also about self-loathing,” she explains. “For women coming up to 50, the mind isn’t as agile as it used to be. What was once possible isn’t. You know, one minute you’re being gang-banged by Hell’s Angels, the next minute you’re being f***ed by a dog. The film is about what happens to your mind in middle age. So it’s honest.” She finishes with a pleading smile that makes me realise – recalling her two iconic pieces, the embroidered tent “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995” and “My Bed”, an installation of unmade sheets surrounded by a detritus of condoms and blood-stained knickers – that it is the fragile, childlike, almost ingratiating quality of her art, rather than its outrage or shock, that is most memorable.
Lunch with the FT: Tracey Emin (Financial Times)