As some of London’s top art galleries begin to look at how they can open up their physical spaces safely after months of lockdown, the White Cube has announced a new digital show with renowned British artist Tracey Emin. Titled ‘I Thrive On Solitude’, the exhibition features a series of intimate paintings created at her East London home during lockdown – and, as is often the case with Emin’s work, each one offers a deeply personal glimpse into her life.
The show features a variety of autobiographical pieces depicting how Emin has spent the last few weeks of self-isolation alone in London, with small-scale paintings reminiscent of Johannes Vermeer’s domestic reveries showing her daydreaming, looking out the window or gazing at a well-worn sofa in her 18th-century house in Spitalfields, which in the artworks has become the setting of her private meditations.
Like a lot of Emin’s work, the pieces explore the contradictions that arise when creating art within a domestic setting, and alongside them she has shared accompanying photographs of her at-home work table, strewn with pieces of paper, mini canvases and paint palettes. Many of the paintings reflect on the past and the fact that her present is becoming increasingly solitary – one work is called ‘My Mum’s Ashes and the Ghost of Docket’, a reference to her beloved cat, who died earlier this year and often features in her paintings.
And yet, the solitude displayed in the paintings is not a melancholy one, as the show’s title suggests. In a Zoom event held to launch the exhibition, Emin revealed how she has embraced the recent experience of being socially distanced and has even found that it has unleashed a new sort of creative happiness in her. She also shared that she thought the art world could learn something from the quarantine about being less frantic, stating there was no need to be constantly jetting off to the latest art fair and suggesting that letting artists have more time alone to create could be a good thing.
The new paintings, which feature detailed scenes of Emin’s bedroom, bathroom and sitting room, were in part created as a farewell to the London house that she is about to leave after 18 years, one that she has freely admitted she never expected to live in alone. She will be moving instead to a home that has a small living space and an extensive studio, which will allow for there to be no gap between her personal and her creative life.
“I am an artist, I see the world in a very singular way,” says Emin of the show. “The more isolation, the more clarity I have. It may be warped and unreal, but it’s mine. I don’t want the world to suffer but I want to stay in my bubble of happiness and well being. I want to take this feeling with me, a clear slow positive energy. I want to live.”
‘I Thrive On Solitude’ runs online at White Cube until 2 August
Main image: Tracey Emin, More Solitude, 2014.
All images courtesy the Artist and White Cube.