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Sewing up your emotions

2 July 2009 by Lisa

Piece of cloth with embroidered letters: 'I keep believing in you'

Tracey Emin, In You, 2009. Embroidered cotton. 13 9/16 x 16 1/8 in. (34.5 x 41 cm) © the artist. Photo: Stephen White. Courtesy White Cube.

She might ignite controversy wherever she goes, but Tracey Emin’s artwork – particularly her sewn work – has an amazing skill that often seems to be overlooked. I checked out her latest exhibition ‘Those who suffer Love’ at the White Cube in London , which showed a range of neons, drawings and several sewn pieces.

Even if you don’t ‘get’ what she is trying to say, I think you’d have to try pretty hard to not appreciate the skill involved in sewing what looks like a sketched drawing on a six-foot piece of cloth. You get up close and there are hundreds of small and precise stitches which create something that appears to be quite devil-may-care. One of the tiniest pieces of cloth seemed to hold the most emotion – a sewn ‘sketch’ of a kneeling figure, with the words ‘no, no, no, no’ stitched above it. 

I guess a lot of people find her work hard to relate to as it’s so personal and she is always wearing her heart on her sleeve. But I think the things she shares seem quite universal; love, lust, loss, pain – they’re all things most adults have experienced. I don’t think you have to try too hard to find these emotions in her work either – what you see is more or less what you get. It’s explicit (sometimes in both senses of the word!), simple, sometimes ugly and sometimes beautiful.

I’m biased of course because as you will see from one of my previous posts, I am really into her anyway. But if you’re in London in the next few days (it finishes on Sunday 5 July) I say go, give it a try and make up your own mind, rather than listening to the critics!


We’ll be looking at the rich variety of work produced by well-known and lesser known female artists in our forthcoming exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery; ‘The Rise of Women Artists’. You can see it from 23 October 2009 – 14 March 2010.

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