Tracey Emin

From the Week of Hell ‘94

1995

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Monoprint on paper
Dimensions
Support: 422 x 592 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Patrons of New Art (Special Purchase Fund) through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1999
Reference
P11568

Summary


Presented by the Patrons of New Art (Special Purchase Fund) through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1999
P11568

Emin's monoprints have a diaristic aspect and frequently depict events from the past. Often they incorporate text as well as image, although some bear only text and others only image. The text appears as the artist's stream of consciousness voice. The rapid, one-off technique involved in making monoprints is perfectly suited to (apparently) immediate expression, as is Emin's scratchy drawing style. From the Week of Hell '94 is based on the events which took place during a 'week from hell' in 1994. During this week Emin had major dentistry, split up with her boyfriend and had an abortion. Other drawings, together with documentation and remnants of the events of this disastrous week, were exhibited in Minky Manky at South London Gallery in 1995 under the collective title A Week From Hell. This monoprint gives an expressionistic account of the abortion. The artist's inert and seemingly headless body is depicted on the right of the print, lying beside a sinister scratchy figure. A diagrammatic sketch of a womb being emptied is depicted to the left of this. Terribly Wrong (see Tate P11565) also refers to this event. Emin has stated:

For me, aggression, sex and beauty go together. Much of my work has been about memory, for example, but memories of violence and pain. Nowadays if I make a drawing I'm trying to draw love, but love isn't always gentle … Being an artist isn't just about making nice things, or people patting you on the back; it's some kind of communication, a message. (Quoted in Morgan, pp.59-60.)

Emin's artistic production began in the early to mid 1980s with printmaking and painting. She was inspired by Austrian artist Egon Schiele (1890-1918) and the German Expressionists, whose work she became aware of while studying at Maidstone College of Art (1983-6). Aspects of these early influences remain both in her subject matter and her style. Emin presents the records of her past as objects of iconic status, positing her persona (or the performance of it) as central. By basing her art on her emotional life, through the narration of frequently traumatic and abusive experiences, Emin has found a way to redeem her personal damage and to communicate on a direct and open level with her audience. She follows the precedence of Louise Bourgeois (born 1911), who has been making a direct connection between her art and her childhood traumas since the early 1980s, producing an Autobiographical Series of prints in 1994 (Tate P77682-95). Emin's raw and brutal honesty exposes the mixture of pathos, vulnerability, resentment and frank aggression which makes humanity so complex.

Further reading:
Sex and the British, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Salzburg 2000, pp.3-4 and 25-9
Neal Brown, Sarah Kent, Matthew Collings, Tracey Emin: I Need Art Like I Need God, exhibition catalogue, Jay Jopling, London 1998, p.6
Stuart Morgan, 'The Story of I: Interview with Tracey Emin', Frieze, issue 34, May 1997, pp.56-61

Elizabeth Manchester
July 2000

Display caption

Emin places herself centre-stage in
her work, telling intimate stories about her life. 'It's like a cleansing of my soul.
It's not just getting rid of baggage or carnage. It's not that simple. Something actually happens within me.'

 

Several of the works refer to traumas, such as having an abortion or splitting up with her boyfriend. These painful events are conveyed with brutal simplicity and candour but, as she says, 'Being an artist isn't just about making nice things, or people patting you on the back; it's some kind of communication, a message'.

 

Gallery label, November 2002

Explore