Tracey Emin

Going to Crack


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Tracey Emin born 1963
Monoprint on paper
Image: 210 x 297 mm
Presented by the artist and Jay Jopling/White Cube 1998


Emin's monoprints have a diaristic aspect and frequently depict events from the past. Rarely displayed alone, they are particularly effective as collective fragments of intense emotional confrontation. Frequently 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, at times addressed to another. Often seemingly naïve misspellings appear, helping to locate the words in the artist's adolescent past. The rapid, one-off technique involved in making monoprints is perfectly suited to (apparently) immediate expression, as is Emin's scratchy drawing style. Messy blotches of ink on the page add to the sense of obsessive 'free' expression. Individual letters in the text sometimes appear back-to-front. This is a result of the process of making monoprints, which produces a mirror image of whatever is drawn or written.

Going to Crack contains text only. It delivers a defiant threat: 'I'll kill you but I'm not going to crack'. Under these printed words the artist has added in pencil: 'But if you have lied to me I will destroy you/ not now - not next year - but when you least expexpt [sic] it - maybe when your [sic] asleep when your [sic] not watching/ maybe in the next world -'. Addressed to someone the artist is closely dependent on, such as a lover, the text exhibits a child's freedom from self-consciousness. This permits Emin to reveal the types of urges and instincts we are taught as adults to restrict to the private world of fantasy. In this she follows the precedence of the artist Louise Bourgeois (born 1911), who has exhibited text and drawings in which she expresses her past and present emotional drives (see Tate P77682-95 for her Autobiographical Series of prints of 1994). Emin's courage in showing various seemingly contradictory aspects of herself - abject, tortured and enraged - and her ability to translate negative personal experience into a form of affirmation, are among her greatest strengths as an artist. See Tate P11565-9 for other Emin monoprints. 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.)

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

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