A troll affair
Artist Tracey Emin may be known for her tent embroidered with the names of everyone she has slept with, but she also has a thing about trolls, as an Edinburgh exhibition shows.
Words: Susanna Beaumont
Margate might be a decent destination for day- trippers. but for Tracey Emin. the English south coast resort where she grew up was a butt-end of a place. She moved to London at fourteen because her home town ‘had so little going for it’. But behind the scenes things did happen in Margate. At school dinners. Emin and her best friend played with their food.
making mashed potato mountains with rivers of
gravy. They also collected trolls and made clothes for them.
With all the media talk about Emin. you would think she has done little more than sleep with people. Her work Iz‘i’eryone I Have [Ever Slept Wit/1. 1963 To 1995. a tent embroidered with the names of over 100 individuals. has gained her a reputation as the wacky star of Brit art. It has also left her labelled as egotistical. content solely with excavating and Haunting her personal history.
Odd that. Singers and writers can explore the autobiographical. but artists are dubbed self-indulgent if they do the same — perhaps they are still expected to produce variations on a sublime theme. Emin‘s response is simple: ‘People may think it is indulgent but then will go on to think about all the people they have slept with. I am making art about universal ideas. that people can relate to.”
But back to trolls. Emin‘s All That Growing Up —
78 THE “ST 18 Apr—l May I997
Emin's conversation is footnoted with an abridged life story - the abortion that laid her low for years and her need to be loved by people.
Soul searching: Tracey Emin in Outside Myself from 1994. Courtesy of Jay Jopling/White Cube
Only To Find On! That I Am Troll appears in Slight. the Collective Gallery’s group show of drawings which also includes work by David Shrigley. Graham Gussin and Karen Kilimnick. It appears Emin has a thing about the plastic creatures of Scandinavian myth. which she began collecting at nine. She is even thinking of basing a future work on lbsen‘s dramatic poem Peer Gynt. which features trolls.
Another work in the Edinburgh show. The Killing ()f Mrs lz‘rlimrds. refers to the school dinner lady who separated Emin and her best friend after being irritated by their food-playing antics. Later .\lrs Edwards died of a brain haemorrhage in the playground. As Emin wrny puts it: "fire power of the troll goes on.‘
You can‘t help getting personal with Emin. Her conversation is not so much footnoted with private asides as an abridged life story — the abortion that laid her low for years; her need to be loved by people; the fact she is now calmer but knows when she is feeling particularly fragile.
Rather than being contrived. Emin's work is simply unpretentious. She gently mocks. rather than mimics. the cult of the artist's ego. T/ie 'l'roeev lfnrin Museum in South London and her self-styled first solo show. I‘M-1's My Major Retrospective. indicate not just an eye for publicity. but an impatience with the art world‘s sensibilities.
Emin also enjoys playing. A few years ago she and artist Sarah Lucas set up shop in London‘s liast End. selling objects like ashtrays emblazoned with Damien Hirst's face. ‘lt was a bit like being two little girls saying let‘s play show.’ says Emin. ‘But it is also the thing 30-year-old women do — open up a tea shop or flower shop.‘ Who knows. perhaps Emin will retire to Margate and open a tea-room.
Slight is at the Collective Gallery. Edinburgh, Sat 26 Apr-24 May. Emin's solo show I Need Art Like I Need God is at the South London Gallery until Sun 18 May.
Murmurs, musings and goings-on in the art world.
WASPS IS CELEBRATING its twentieth birthday. Although well and truly past its adolescent years, it is facing a wee bit of an identity crisis. WASPS, standing for Workshop and Artists Studio Provision Scotland, rents studio space to over 500 artists throughout Scotland as well as hosting exhibitions. It has, however, been confused with the American acronym meaning White Anglo- Saxon Protestants. There has been talk of a name change but the WASPS board has decided to rise above transatlantic misunderstandings and keep the old title.
TALKING OF NAMES, Glasgow’s King Street and Parnie Street, home to numerous galleries, have been dubbed the city's Left Bank, begging the question of who are Glasgow's equivalents to Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus and Picasso.
IT SEEMS THAT Andrew Nairn, who resigned recently as the Scottish Arts Council’s director of visual arts, has landed his dream job as director of Dundee Contemporary Arts at the new Dundee City Art Centre. The result of the conversion and extension of a former garage by architect Richard Murphy, the Centre is due to open in summer 1998. Interestingly, it is the recipient of the biggest SAC Lottery grant awarded to date — £53 million.
GLASGOW GIRLS AND BOYS are becoming high profile in London at the moment. Christine Borland has a show at the Lisson Gallery and David Shrigley is at Stephen Friedman, while Ross Sinclair is at The Agency. Euro-wise, they are also in the ascendancy. Could it be possible to follow up Glasgow artist Douglas Gordon's Turner Prize triumph last year? Now is the time to put forward the names of your favoured artists — the Tate Gallery has just released its Turner Prize nominations form.
ALSO GETTING A LONDON SHOWING is architect Will Alsop’s Clyde Weir — River of Dreams, a series of drawings aimed at transforming the banks of Glasgow’s River Clyde into what appears to a be a garish misb-mash of colourful bits and bobs. Even that bastion of London living, Time Out announced that Glasgow deserves better.
Mish-mash dreams: Will Alsop's River of Dreams Oggle Goggle Box