Tracey Emin unveils new art exhibition in cancer comeback, including a 20ft bronze sculpture
A famous British artist who recently recovered from multiple cancer surgeries has today unveiled a 20ft bronze sculpture near Edinburgh.
Tracey Emin, CBE, was given the all-clear from bladder cancer last year after having surgery to remove many of her reproductive organs, parts of her intestines and lymph nodes as well as being fitted with a stoma bag.
The 58-year-old artist said her latest works, produced over the last two years in her studios in Margate and London, were an ‘expression of love, hope and the fragility of the human form’.
A collection of her works will be exhibited from 29 May to 2 October 2022 at Jupiter Artland in Scotland, with the principal piece being a massive bronze figure, entitled ‘I Lay Here For You’.
The 20ft bronze sculpture is situated in a woodland clearing and depicts a female figure, which is said to be ‘lying perpetually in wait’.
Tracey Emin, 58, today unveiled a 20ft bronze statue of a woman lying down (pictured), which is the principal piece in her upcoming exhibition entitled ‘I Lay Here For You’
The 58-year-old artist, who is known for her ‘confessional style’ of art, will exhibit a collection of her works at Jupiter Artland in Scotland from 29 May to 2 October 2022
Emin said last year that she had stopped painting, as she needed to focus all of her willpower on staying alive as she battled ‘really, really aggressive’ bladder cancer
The statue of the female figure is described as ‘monumental in scale and radiating warmth’ and ‘resists onlookers and her gaze is turned inwards towards herself.’
The exhibition comes just over a year since Emin told BBC Newsnight had stopped making art due to her cancer struggle.
Emin said in April 2021: ‘I’m not painting because I’m using my willpower to stay alive. That’s what I’m doing.’
Emin, best known for works such as her unmade bed and the tent Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, added she hoped to return to painting in the future.
‘I never realised how much I wanted to live until I thought I was going to die,’ she said after learning a year ago that doctors had successfully removed all of the cancer.
She found she had a tumour in her bladder in June 2020 and was suffering with very aggressive squamous cell cancer, which surgeons feared would kill her in months if it spread to her lymph nodes.
The statue of a woman lying down is said to resist onlookers, turning her gaze inwards towards herself
‘I Lay Here For You’ was cast in bronze from a clay version moulded by Emin and has been placed in an old-growth beech grove
The artist’s bed appears as a ‘recurring motif’ throughout the exhibition, a throwback to 1999 when she had her own bed installed in the Tate as an artistic representation of her personal battle with depression
The exhibition will be spread out over indoor rooms and outdoor sculpture parks at Jupiter Artland, near Edinburgh
Emnin said her surgeon had called her a ‘miracle woman’ because of how quickly she had recovered from the harrowing operation, which saw her lose her bladder, womb, urethra, parts of her intestines and lymph nodes as well as half of her vagina
‘I never realised how much I wanted to live until I thought I was going to die,’ Emin said last year in an interview with BBC Newsnight
Throughout the indoor galleries in the exhibition, the artist’s bed appears as a ‘recurring motif’.
Emin gained notoriety in 1999 when she had her own bed displayed at the Tate, covered with items such as condoms, contraceptive pills, underwear stained with menstrual blood, money and cigarette ends.
WHAT IS BLADDER CANCER?
Bladder cancer is caused by a tumour developing in the lining of the bladder or the organ’s muscle.
Around 10,200 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year and 81,400 people in the US, according to figures.
It is the 10th most common cancer in the UK – but a little more prevalent in the US – and accounts for about three per cent of all cases.
The cancer is more common in men and has a 10-year survival rate of about 50 per cent. Around half of cases are considered preventable.
Symptoms of the disease include blood in the urine, needing to urinate more often or more urgently than normal and pelvic pain.
However, unexpected weight loss and swelling of the legs can also be signs of the killer disease.
Smoking and exposure to chemicals in plastics and paints at work can increase the risk of getting bladder cancer.
Treatment varies depending on how advanced the cancer is, and may include surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Source: NHS Choices
The 1999 exhibition of her bed was a representation of her battle with depression.
Her choice to incorporate beds into her latest work echoes that motif, although this time could be interpreted as referring to the time she spent bedridden after undergoing cancer surgeries, according to a press release put out by the artist’s agent.
The exhibition organisers said: ‘After the turmoil of last few years, one can’t help seeing these new works as haunting images of time spent in recovery and of the bed as a site of refuge and retreat.
‘And yet an enduring message of hope resonates through the work, imbued with the possibility of love returning with renewed intensity.
‘Emin paints spaces where privacy belongs, and across all of Jupiter Artland’s gallery spaces, she offers an unflinching look at pain, tenderness, longing and recovery.’
Prior to her cancer surgery – removing her bladder but also her uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, lymph nodes, urethra and part of her colon and vagina – Miss Emin said she stayed up for 24 hours with her solicitor rewriting her will.
She then sent an email to 70 friends breaking the news of her cancer and instructing them: ‘Do not contact me’.
She has been left with a stoma bag as a result of having ‘half my body chopped out’ and is sadly still struggling to paint.
But it did not stop Miss Emin from feeling ‘very happy’.
She said last year: ‘I’m doing brilliant, I’m doing so well.
‘I’m so happy and I’m just taking every day as it comes and I’m just so happy to be alive because there was quite a strong expectation that I wasn’t going to make it through Christmas.
‘And I am going to make it to Christmas and the next Christmas and the next one.
‘That’s what I’m aiming for, so I’m feeling really happy and good and I just wish the world would get better. I wish the world would catch up with me on this one.’
Miss Emin continued: ‘It could’ve been very, very different so I’m so grateful.
‘My surgeon and the team are calling me a miracle woman because I just sort of like jumped up and got back into everything.
‘Maybe at the beginning a little bit too fast… because I was back in bed for a month again. But now I’m balancing things and being more cautious.
‘I want to live forever. I want to do my art, I want to have more exhibitions, there’s things to do… and I had to think ‘I’m not going to be doing it’. I had to come to terms with that.’
‘I Lay Here For You’ is Tracey Emin’s first solo exhibition in Scotland since her 2008 retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
The exhibition takes place from May 29 to October 2 2022 at Jupiter Artland in Edinburgh.
Highlights of Tracey Emin’s career
1995, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-95: This piece first brought Tracey Emin to wider fame, both in the art world and among the general public
1999, My Bed: The piece is Emin’s record of several days spent in bed in the grip of depression. The bed is unmade and the sheets are stained. All around are strewn a variety of items such as condoms, contraceptive pills, underwear stained with menstrual blood, money, and cigarette ends. The work was nominated for the Turner prize in 1999 and received a hugely mixed response from the public and press
2001, The Perfect Place to Grow: This work pays homage to the artist’s Turkish Cypriot father who, she says, is a fantastic gardener but a terrible carpenter. It consists of a wooden birdhouse-like structure on wooden stilts
2004, Hate and Power Can be a Terrible Thing: This appliquéd blanket work is a blistering attack Margaret Thatcher, and her participation in the Falklands War of 1982
2011, I Promise To Love You: In the 2000s, Emin began working extensively with neon lighting. These works feature words and phrases in her handwriting. Pictured, 2011’s neon sculpture I Promise To Love You