Tracey Emin – She Lay Down Beneath The Sea – Turner Contemporary


While visiting family in Margate I thought I’d check out the new Turner Contemporary and Emin’s exhibition. The building is certainly a landmark which hits you as soon as you walk out of the train station, slightly too much harsh concrete for my architectural tastes, but lets face it anything would improve the town the way it looks at the moment. It’s understandable how all the press photographs avoid large portions of the seafront, if they showed what it really looked like I doubt they’d have even half the recorded half a million visitors.

I wasn’t expecting much to be honest, I’ve seen a number of Emin’s works before including the famous ‘unmade bed’ and left feeling completely underwhelmed. One piece is a stick on a mattress called ‘dead sea’, what is her obsession with mattresses? Seriously we all know she put it about a bit when she was young and was unforgivably mistreated, but she’s a menopausal 49 year old now so surely artistically she should have moved to start exploring a more mature subject matter by now. I read a quote in ‘the mirror’ where she explains that the exhibition is about saying goodbye to these themes, which is hopefully cause for a sigh of relief for people everywhere. It’s not the theme which offends me so much as her complete wallowing in it for thirty years. The drawings are nieve at best, although she gets basic forms the perspective is appalling and certainly not done so purposely. Her explanation for this is and I quote ‘I’m not the worlds best visual artist.’ What does that even mean! In my mind that whole sentence is a contradiction an artist is someone who brings something beautiful and inspiring to the world and her work is visual, the mediums she chooses to work with are visual. So if she’s not a good ‘visual artist’ maybe she should find another job, it’s like a plumber saying I’m not the best with pipes! None of the works had any impact on me, I didn’t feel moved, shocked or intrigued.
 I‘d love to be able to discuss the different drawings on display but they’re all very similar, it’s as if you asked six year old to copy pictures out of a porn magazine. While the tapestries are beautiful woven by ‘the tapestry studio,’they’re incredibly immature, I suppose she’s making some sort of comment by producing such an immoral image in the medium favoured by fine Victorian ladies. The neon’s are striking, but nothing original especially when you compare them to Jessica Loydd Jones’s anatomical ones. Its free, so of course I think people should go and see it for themselves if for no other reason than Margate needs you to.

In theory I get what Emin was trying to do with her ‘coming home’, giving something back to the community that inspired the work which went on to make her a household name. However the content of the show is so inaccessible to anyone who hasn’t read an essay about it and her before hand, it all seems a bit pointless. Yes the turner gallery is bringing more people to the town and this has led to a number of small shops, galleries and cafe’s opening which sounds like a positive. And in one way it is, walking through the old  town was always enjoyable because of its lovely Victorian architectural, but now its full of life again as the shops are slowing starting to become occupied. Although the prices of things inside these shops is certainly out of the reach of the majority of Margate residents, which has some of the highest figures of state dependant people in the country. The regeneration hasn’t gone any further than the few streets directly surrounding the gallery, the high street is still a ghost town full of young people, drunks and oddballs milling about with nothing to do. I lived in Margate for over a year, so I know it desperately needs help and the government seriously needs to look into how many walk in care facilities for the mentally ill they put into one small area as it seriously affects the atmosphere of the whole town. Hopefully the plans to develop the dreamland site will come to fruition then maybe it will become a more appealing family destination.

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