REVIEW: Marc Lee at Annka Kultys Gallery

The more I go visit exhibitions, the less I feel excited about traditional, ‘ordinary’ art. I probably like 20% of the paintings I see, not to mention sculptures. On the other hand, the more and more I experience non-traditional art, the more I fall in love with it. Multimedia art is going to be more and more central in the art scene in the years to come and everyone should start approaching it and talking about it. Because contemporary art focuses not just on the contemporary, but also on the future: on what technology has been achieving in the past years and what innovations it will bring in the next decades.

© Marc Lee, Courtesy the artist and Annka Kultys Gallery.

If this first paragraph actually had that much power that the reader started googling ‘multimedia art’, or ‘multimedia art gallery’, it will be verifiable how one of the galleries looking to this digital future is Annka Kultys Gallery, in London. It focuses precisely on future generations of artists who work mainly on digital platforms: this represents a challenge not only because the program of the gallery furthers away from the ‘normal’, ‘traditional’ art, but also because it forces to ‘think out of the box’, in curatorial and commercial terms. It is easy to hang paintings on a wall, but how do you handle the projection of a video? Do you use headphones, or do you keep the audio on? And who wants to buy an app made by the artist if you can also find it for free on Google Play?

And these same questions have been asked when preparing the last exhibition Non-Places, a solo show by the Swiss artist Marc Lee – which, by the way, closes tomorrow, on 25th May! It comprises four artworks, four apps designed by the artist that underline how every space, every environment is inevitably connected to the online world. Through these apps showing in real time the tweets that people uploaded in a certain location, it becomes clear how virtual space is nowadays a huge, new world, almost mimicking physical cities but with no real connection to them, if not only for that ‘location’ icon we activate on our phones.

© Marc Lee, Courtesy the artist and Annka Kultys Gallery.

And to have an even clearer sense of this, the app 10.000 Moving Cities – Same but Different, AR (2018) underlines how even in the area where we are standing right now, people are tweeting and the environment is being absorbed by virtuality. With AR and an iPad, we are able to see blocks forming simil-buildings containing tweets people have been uploading in that same area where we are. But wait… a sheep! Weird animals start appearing on the screen. This apparent randomness reflects nowadays’ confusion: our human world is destroying, for no apparent reason, the flora and fauna of the Earth. Places are emerging and environments are constantly changing, which has an important impact on animals, insects, and all those ‘other’ beings around us.

This parallelism is actually quite powerful, and if, on the moment, we laugh at seeing a sheep on the gallery floor and we are more focused on enjoying the AR experience, on our way home we reflect about what we have seen, and we finally analyse the artwork and the important meanings it hides.

And the same happens with Me, Myself and I, the most interactive AR app of the four. The same concept of buildings made up of blocks is used once again, but in this case they need to be filled with the visitor’s face. The phone takes automatic shots with the internal camera, and each of them goes and fills a block. The user is required to travel across this multi-faced city until every block is filled in order to access the next level. There are 6 levels in total, and while the first one requires 2/3 minutes to finish, the last one could also take up until 30/40 minutes.

Apart from the fact that visitors unconsciously help one another finish the levels, one of the most impressive things about this ‘game’ is, once again, its practicality, how the visitors have the desire to fulfil the practical features the app has. They want to be part of the artwork, not just a contemplative audience. And the same happens: the visitors become aware of the message the artist is trying to communicate by seeing their same faces literally stuck on the buildings of a virtual city. They reflect on the message, narcissism and the cult of oneself’s images, at the basis of nowadays’ society.

© Marc Lee, Courtesy the artist and Annka Kultys Gallery.

The thing is, I hope that visitors actually think about what they see, and they don’t forget the whole experience as soon as it is over. AR, and all the other important technological innovations employed in art, are some of the most powerful artistic mediums today because they are the news. No one (or, at least, just very few people) have VR visors in their homes, and as soon as a new VR exhibition is on it is bombarded with visitors because they all want to live this new experience everyone has been talking about. But the meaning conveyed by the artwork cannot be forgotten: the medium has to be just a way of enhancing what the artist has been wanting to communicate to the world. And, maybe, this is the biggest challenge of technology and multimedia art: presenting an artwork is not enough, the visitors also have to be guided through its usage.

But at least it is a challenge, and it stimulates the art-world to think in new terms. Without challenges, there is only boredom.

REVIEW: Aaron Scheer FINAL_007 (02) at Annka Kultys Gallery

This review is also available on Artlyst.com https://www.artlyst.com/reviews/upcoming-curators-review-exhibitions-annka-kultys-cell-project-space/

Annka Kultys gallery is a compact and clean space, the whitewashed walls a perfect backdrop for her latest showing of Aaron Scheer’s colour-popping digital paintings. Based between Berlin, Germany and Gothenburg, Sweden, ‘FINAL_007 (02)’ marks Scheer’s first solo exhibition in the UK and is on view until March 2 2019.
Scheer works with a range of digital devices, creating his works using the screens of his phone or laptop. The collection of seven works printed on paper continues his ongoing exploration of digital media, using painterly techniques to create artworks. To allow the visitors to have an understanding of his technique, the gallery included in the exhibition an insightful video created by Scheer himself, showing how he composes his digital, colour-saturated palettes by swiping and screenshotting the screen of an iPad. Through layering carefully composed monochrome images or desktop folders, sometimes manipulated using brush strokes effects on Photoshop, he creates vivid compositions with vibrant colour contrasts.

Aaron Scheer Annka Kultys Gallery
DANA X, Aaron Scheer, 2018 at Annka Kultys Gallery

On the surface, these works are pleasing just to look at because of the interplay of texture and colour, but there is a deeper meaning behind the German-born artist’s modern creations. He is interested in the relationship and cross-over between humanity and technology, with a focus on the ever-increasing connection and interdependency between man and social networks. The vivid blue of the Rothko-like painting Digital Archaeology V, or the bright green in the background of Facbook_7aec5af, both on view at the gallery, remind the viewer of apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp. Through applying a classical art compositional approach to digital mediums, he can explore the challenges of our ever increasing digital world, from perceptions of reality to big data and automated production.
As illustrated by the curator of the gallery, contact between Kultys and Scheer started a few years ago, when the German artist connected with her online. She then decided to include his artworks in the group show ‘CACOTOPIA 03’, an annual exhibition featuring the works of five recent graduates from art academies that ran from December 5, 2018, to January 19, 2019. Following the success of that exhibition, Scheer became one of the new artists represented by the gallery.
Scheer’s exhibition is contextualized in the gallery’s history, which has focused on multimedia and digital art since its opening in September 2015. Located in the borough of Hackney, in east London, it encourages artists to bring their digital artworks to the gallery and functions as a point of contact with the press and collectors. For anyone interested in the world of digital art, it is worth a visit.

Interview with artist and curator Sarah Sparkes at New Art Projects, London

Hi everyone, sorry if I have been this absent from the blog but the past two weeks have been crazy because of university deadlines and other projects, but from now on the situation will go back to normal! The uploads will be more consistent, and sorry again for these weeks of absence 🙂

We go back on track with this interview I made to Sarah Sparkes, an artist and curator based in London and now having an exhibition called ‘The GHost Parlour’ at New Art Projects until April 27. This interview follows the video interview that you can find on YouTube here, go check it out if you haven’t already!

Here we talk more in depth about her works that are now exhibited at New Art Projects in London.

Still from Time You Need © Sarah Sparkes

V: Can you tell me a bit more about the film exhibited?

S: So, it is called ‘Time You Need’ (2015) and it was made for the MERU ART*SCIENCE Award. I was nominated for that award by a curator called Rob la Frenais, who also curated the exhibition ‘No Such Thing as Gravity’. I think there were about five or seven nominated artists, they were all nominated by different curators and I won. I put a proposal for a film, and the jury nominated me to win! That was really exciting, I have had to make the first film I have ever made, which was really hard and intense. Because I make things with my hands, I had to learn about it as a physical medium, so it has a lot of special effects, quite cheesy ones because I was thinking of a 60s 70s sci-fi aesthetics. The special effects are done with me spinning things with my hands and with very simple effects of overlaying. It’s a film that is about time travel, internal time travel, it’s about trying to find a way to slow down time and enter a time that you need. We are always rushing, we are always tearing through life and I was just thinking how wonderful it might be that we could find within ourselves a black hole, a little wormhole in which we could escape to any time, and it would always be the time that we love the most. So, I did a performance in which I explored these themes with people, I just said ‘go to the time you need’. I did this text that I read to them that was quite hypnotic, and then I sung them a little song, the one that is on the film.

Still from Time You Need © Sarah Sparkes

V: So, the one in the film is during that performance?

S: Yes, so it’s kind of re-enacting the performance. I worked with three artists, two of them are performance artists because I wanted performance in the film to recreate the original I had done for a project called ‘Overtime’. I just told them ‘Come as if you were dressed to go time traveling’ so the clothes were entirely their own choice. I also worked with a scientist, an artist-scientist called Pietro Reviglio, he’s an astrophysicist and he has two PhDs in the study of black holes, so he was the science advisor since the film takes the concept, the idea of the black hole and plays with it in the narrative linking it to literature, science fiction, films and television programs in which there are portals or wormholes and they’re able to travel across time. I wanted to bring all of these things together with my own aesthetics and make a film that looked like the rest of my work. It was a challenge, very enjoyable, very frustrating sometimes, and I have had so many brilliant friends to help me, they’re all credited at the end of the film. Oh, it also features my great grandfather’s magic lantern’s lights. He was a magic lanternist, and I inherited his slides.

V: What do you mean by magic lanterns?

S: It is one of the earliest forms of projected images, it is glass slides with coloured pictures painted on them and then they would go in a big wooden box which once had fire behind it, now a lightbulb, that would project the images with a magnifier lens. This was an early form of entertainment and he used to go around south-east London entertaining people by projecting these things. And I inherited them, they’re so magical and beautiful that I wanted to insert them in the story.

Still from Time You Need © Sarah Sparkes
Material Mediums – Margery, Sarah Sparkes © Andy Keate

V: That’s amazing! Please, tell us more about the works made with wallpaper.

S: That’s a series of works called David Soul, maybe a lot of people are too young to remember but he was a 1970s pop star, he was also in a tv show called Starsky and Hutch. I am interested in this poster of David Soul that appears in the background in a very famous photograph of a very famous poltergeist case of the 1970s that involved a young girl, a teenage girl called Janet. She alleged that she was possessed by the poltergeist of an old man, and the whole house in Enfield was haunted by this man. It made the news, there have been documentaries about it and more recently two films made about it [one of this is the second movie of The Conjuring series].

She’s still alive, she still claims all of this happened, and in the photographs of her possession she’s leaping up in the air in her tiny bedroom, with a really big poster of David Soul. It looks like she is leaping towards him in the poster! This iconography of David Soul and the poltergeist girl is jumbled up in my mind and in my memory with research I have done into psychics, parapsychology and animalistic psychology, all different fields of research that come from various levels of belief. Some of them are open minded and believe, and some of them are neutral, or claim to be neutral. Some of them come from the position of ‘it’s all in the mind and we can prove it’. I have worked with people from all these different fields because I guess I am the neutral person, I want to remain neutral about my belief in ghosts and just explore them as a cultural phenomenon.

Image 1: the Enfield poltergeist case

V: What do you mean by neutral?

S: I won’t say if I believe or not in ghosts. For me it’s not about that, for me as an artist it’s not about my belief or skepticism at all, I haven’t even investigated that. I’m exploring how ghosts are made, I am looking for a ghost formula. How to make a ghost. And then I am interested in people that research ghosts. So, the wallpaper I used for these images is actual 1970s wallpaper, the blue wallpaper was on my bedroom walls when I was growing up, and that explains a lot!

V: So it’s the actual wallpaper?!

S: Yes, my mum always kept a spare roll of wallpaper in case we needed to patch up, and when she was clearing up the attic she found it and I said ‘oh no don’t throw it away! I’ll do something with this’. For the past three years I have been making works on it. I have been painting on it, I have been collaging with it, and it is also featured in other things as well, like in digital collages. However, these are actual, physical collages with prints, and it’s the actual wallpaper so it’s kind of vintage, I guess. The blue one was on the bedroom wall, and the orange one on the kitchen wall. So these are kind of found objects that have a memory and an important significance to me, and the imagery on them are of people that have been involved with ghosts in a variety of ways. There is one with Janet leaping towards David Soul, another with Janet and her brother and sister. And in that photo, when you zoom behind them there is a little magazine that says David Soul – part of it is my own myth-making, of course.

Crazy Horses, Sarah Sparkes © Andy Keate

I am also interested in how this myth of ghosts crosses cultures and borders and expands on. As it comes into a new culture it would be adapted into that, and that is what I am doing with the imagery. I am bringing ghosts from different cultures together and creating a new ghost story. Some artworks also feature native Americans: in an artwork a native American ghost dance is represented, which used to be performed in America at the same time as the spiritualist movement started in the States. I think it was no coincidence that spiritualism started in America, where the natives had a spirit based religion – then the invaders came, took the land and religions and massively killed and repressed the native Americans. They had developed a ghost dance, a religious practice where they would dance in a circle and try to bring back the past. It’s very moving: they’re trying to reconnect with the past, wipe away all the damage that had been done by the white people and bring back the buffalos and bring back all their dead relatives. I have brought them in as well along with this 1970s poltergeist possession.

So, everybody, or everything here is something that humans have used to try to contact the dead, that is their connection.

Material Mediums – Helen, Sarah Sparkes © Andy Keate

V: Are they prints on the wallpaper?

S: They are prints: these [the orange ones] are digital images, manipulated digitally and then printed directly on wallpaper – I’ve broken two printers doing this, it’s not advisable! While these [the blue ones] are actual physical collages, sometimes there’s a bit of paint in them. I made a bit of physical collages, a bit of painting on top, changing sizes, playing around the process of collage, and then I scanned them, they became digital images and then they were printed onto the wallpaper. I found that this wallpaper particularly takes the print really well, it’s a lovely surface! Sometimes I have also sanded them, I like how the wallpaper comes through the images. So this is a friend describing it, I am gonna quote her, she said ‘it looks like black mold on the wallpaper’ and I thought that was brilliant! I thought ‘perfect, that’s exactly what it is’! It’s like black mold on the wall of an old house, and then you see shapes in it. I also reprinted on top of some of them, so it’s quite a long process

V: How long did it take to make them?

S: I never time things! I’m quite a labor-intensive artist, I like to do everything myself: I built the infinity tunnel myself in my studio since I don’t like to send things out to fabricators. The horses are cuts in and a more physical collage: I had to cut them out and kind of embed them into the wallpaper. I think this was just an attempt to open the stable doors and let the spirits in, let the energy in, like the wild horse energy. They are like little charms to let the wild horse energy into your home, because I think that everyone needs every now and then stampeding horses running through their living room.

Crazy Horses, Sarah Sparkes © Andy Keate

V: In the end it was sort of the same process, but you cut them and embedded them into the wallpaper.

S: Yeah, exactly the same process. The orange wallpaper cut down and then embedded into the other wallpaper. And each time they’re different, every time you have a different colour. By the way, this is the last roll of orange wallpaper, people should come just for that! This is the last work I can do on this wallpaper. The very last one is going to be at the Venice Biennale, two matchboxes with David Soul’s eyes on them. The David Soul’s eyes on this wallpaper are exhibited in a show called ‘Miniscule’. At the moment it’s in Cross Lane project in the Lake District, and then another version of the exhibition is going to the Venice Biennale from May through to July.

V: Is it in the Biennale…?

S: It’s a collateral event.

The GHost Tunnel, Sarah Sparkes © Stephen King

V: What about the tunnel?

S: This is the GHost Tunnel and is part of a much bigger installation that was made for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool and the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, for an exhibition called ‘No Such Thing as Gravity’, curated by Rob la Frenais. We visited Liverpool and he wanted me to do something about ghosts: he had the name of the exhibition and he knew he wanted to explore areas of science where a bit of magic comes in the practice. A science where there is not necessarily concrete material or answers but more unmaterial processes in order to find answers.

Science and magic combined, so ghosts: I am interested in how ghosts are made and I do research in this kind of element of psychology, parapsychology and neuroscience. The room was transformed in a ghost research area, it had this [the tunnel] in it, it had a robot that replicated a neuroscience experiment that created something called ‘feeling of presence’: you pushed one lever in front of you and you had to imagine you were poking someone in the back, and then behind you another robot poked you in the back corresponding your movements, so it was mirroring what you were doing with a slight delay. People have reported feeling as if there was really something behind them, they got spooked out! Even people that don’t believe in ghosts, they tested it with people that had neurological problems and people that did not have problems, and people equally went ‘Oh my god, there’s someone behind me!’. That was something I couldn’t make myself, I worked with a robotic artist called Sarah Angliss and she did the robotics for me.

Another room was a library, a whole library with books about ghost research from all different disciplines: there was an area with shelves that had an amateur ghost hunter’ equipment on it, there were all the gadgets that he used. Behind the shelves there was a little room, and in there a puppet that I had made, called the Host Ghost. It looks like a ghost of sheets, with its hands up, and people could point the equipment at the puppet and test all the ghost hunting readings on the puppet. There were also monitors on the shelves of the local group of ghost hunters ‘Mersey Paranormal’: I went on an investigation with them and there were footages of the investigation on the monitors.

Finally, there was another area where people could read ghost stories I had collected in Liverpool, it was a little office space with the screen and people could upload their ghost stories or read them. That element of the exhibition still exists, and we can still read the Liverpool ghost stories, they are on a website online called the ghostportal.co.uk. And when I went to Taiwan with the exhibition, the whole thing went in a ship! The ghost tunnel has been in a ship twice. So, this is the original one, it’s the first time it has been shown in London. If you look really closely you can see all the way to Taiwan!

V: That’s impressive! How is it made, can you say it?

S: No, it’s just magic! It is all smoked mirrors, it’s an old optical illusion, but I have my twist to that optical illusion that I can’t possibly reveal! It makes the tunnel go deeper than other infinity tunnels. It goes back a long way, but actually it doesn’t.

V: Yes, otherwise installing it would be a problem!

S: But I like the idea that you can imagine it goes to Liverpool and Taiwan, it’s like it has brought together all the people that have looked in it in those places. So yeah, it was part of this big installation and New Art Projects has always wanted to show it here, so they have built it into the wall. It was installed the same way in Liverpool and Taiwan, down a long corridor.

REVIEW: Bill Viola / Michelangelo

Aaand for art lovers, we’re back with another review of an exhibition! (This review is also on Youtube, click here to see it!)

I spent yesterday morning at the Royal Academy of the Arts in Piccadilly, London, at the exhibition ‘Bill Viola / Michelangelo: Life, death, rebirth‘, which opened on January 26 and will be on until the end of March.

Michelangelo’s The Lamentation over the Dead Christ, c. 1540 © The Trustees of the British Museum

‘Bill Viola / Michelangelo’ is an exhibition where video works from the visual artist Bill Viola are put in conversation with drawings made by Michelangelo (which – note – are owned by the Queen!!). I must say I was quite sceptic, it’s not something common to see works by one of the most famous artists of the world exhibited together not only with contemporary artworks, but with videos! I wasn’t sure about this contrast, but at the same time it was made by such a famous institution that I had to see it, at least. I also started appreciating more and more video art – my love for everything digital is getting stronger – so I decided to give it a chance.

I am actually still struggling in deciding where to start, it is not one of those straightforward exhibition where personal interpretation doesn’t really matter. In this case, the themes explored touch us all, and I suppose that the whole experience depends on how we perceive those particular themes. What I felt during the exhibition and that didn’t fade during the rest of the day is… I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s a sort of peace, simple, natural, but not positive; there is melancholy, there is fear, and death to some extent.

Viola’s Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall), 2005 – Courtesy Bill Viola Studio. Photo: Kira Perov

(I probably didn’t get the part about rebirth, did I?)

Bill Viola was born in 1951 in New York, and he’s one of the first generation of artists that started working with the digital medium thanks to the introduction of portable and cheap cameras in the 60s. I feel that one of the most important elements of his practice is to understand his view of ‘time’, which he considers one of the central revolutions of image-making – he also compares it to the introduction of perspective in Renaissance art. And time actually has a central role in his videos, which are usually extremely slow-motion scenes representing people in different contexts, often underwater. And it is that same, soft sound of being underwater, that sense of slowness, that follows the visitor through and out of the exhibition, as if time had been stretched. At the same time, his videos are continuously looped, giving a sense of suffocating eternity.

Michelangelo’s The Risen Christ, c.1532-3 © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Viola’s art explores different themes, often having philosophical and spiritual significance. He engaged with Renaissance art (he went to Florence to study during his education), with religious mysticism, and he combines contemporary technology with ancient tradition. He seeks to explore life, death, religion. Viola suggested that films could “function both as aesthetic objects of contemporary art and as practical objects of traditional contemplation and devotion”.

However, while he explores these themes, it is not entirely clear what he wants to say, what his artworks are suggesting the viewer. No doubt that they easily attract the eyes of the audience because of the subjects and the aesthetic; they invite the viewer to stand still and forget the world for a few moments, but then? What is there after this? Does he want to recreate a sort of mystical experience? Does he want to tell a story? Is he sharing his view of the world? Or he actually didn’t want to do any of these things, and just underline the connection between life and death?

Bill Viola’s Nantes Triptych, 1992, right, opposite Michelangelo’s Taddei Tondo – Photograph: David Parry © Royal Academy of Arts
The Virgin and Child With the Infant St John the Baptist (the Taddei Tondo), c1504-5 by Michelangelo © Royal Academy of Arts, London

Moreover, the conversation between his works and Michelangelo’s is, sometimes, forced, and the dialogue created is not achieved completely. The Nantes Triptych, formed by three different videos representing a woman giving birth, a body floating in water and Viola’s dying mother, is installed in front of Taddei Tondo (1505) by Michelangelo, where the Virgin Mary is comforting baby Jesus, scared at the sight of a goldfinch – symbol of the crucifixion. If from one point of view the two artworks seem to be in a close connection because of the coexistence-of-death/life-theme, on the other there is something unconvincing about it – isn’t it too straightforward? And what is the connection between Viola’s view of daily life – a man floating underwater – and Michelangelo’s?

And the same happens in the other rooms where the artists’ works are installed together, the dialogue is not convincing and appears just thanks to the clues in RA’s information boards on the walls. To me, it seems that, despite the shared themes of spirituality, materiality and life/death, Michelangelo’s works were diminished. It is as if they were reduced to the most appropriate interpretation for this particular exhibition, and for Viola’s video.

At the same time, I liked the show: Viola’s videos need to be experienced on a big screen, with the right light and the right atmosphere, in order for the audience to enter in contact with the artwork itself. I must admit that it does require some time, but it reveals itself to be a poetic experience. Especially when you accept the stillness of the video, and you start realising that you, first of all, have to experience the exhibition itself with slowness and calm in order to fully appreciate it.

But it is also important to notice that, in those rooms where both Michelangelo’s and Viola’s work were installed, the drawings totally eclipsed the videos because of their undeniable beauty.

I mean, it’s Michelangelo.

REVIEW(ish): T. Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears’

‘Ms. Emin’s nihilism is so intensely passionate that it amounts to her life force. It is carried (…) primarily by language (…). In this day of multiple media and blurred boundaries between disciplines, it still seems that she might be less an artist than a writer, whose autobiography and hard-won philosophy of life would work best in book form. But in whatever form Ms. Emin chooses to work, one thing seems clear: she’s all voice.’ Roberta Smith, NYT

Yes, I know, I haven’t chosen something easy to write about, especially being this my first article.

Today Tracey Emin is one of the most controversial contemporary artists, some say that her works are ‘too much’: too much depression, too much sadness, too much passion. She knows how to provoke the viewer, she knows how to make us feel. It is as if she was saying ‘You can choose whether to open yourselves to my artworks and accept whatever emotions they may cause you, or you can go on living emotionless your gray and dull life’. Because despite all the tragedies she went through, her life is a blaze of colours.

Tracey Emin with My Bed, Tate Britain, 2015 © Guy Bell

Tracey Emin was born in 1963 in London, and she is one of the most well-known British contemporary artists of today. Her arguably most famous work is My Bed, exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1999 and which represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2007. The bed (yup, the artwork title is quite self-explanatory) exhibited was the actual bed where she spent hours and hours smoking, eating, or having sexual intercourses in a quite difficult period of her life. For this reason, her artwork attracted not little media attention: it wasn’t just a bed, it was a bed surrounded by empty alcohol bottles, sheets full of weird stains, used condoms and empty cigarettes packets. Some thought ‘I didn’t come to an art gallery to see used condoms!”, but thankfully a lot more people appreciated the underlying intensity of her sorrow and despair.

Oh, yeah, she is also famous because in 1997 she appeared drunk on TV in the discussion panel of the program ‘The Death of Painting’ (…or ‘Is Painting Dead?’, according to The Guardian). I actually looked for the video but couldn’t find it (please, share the link if you do!).

The entrance of the exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey, 2019 © Virginia Bianchi

Tracey Emin’s ‘A Fortnight of Tears’ is now on at White Cube Bermondsey until April 7. If you’re in London, GO AND SEE IT. I mean it. (If it wasn’t clear enough, it was quite a long time that I wasn’t that emotional about an exhibition).

The artworks exhibited are how Tracey translated her sufferings into material, artistic objects. Each and every one of them (and they’re quite a large number) is a punch in the stomach of the visitor. Starting from the first room, where fifty self-portraits taken during her sleepless nights of insomnia are hanged on the walls, the intimacy of her devastated glances made me feel naked and uneasy, almost as if the ghosts haunting her nights were in that same room, with me.

Insomnia Room Installation, 2018 © Virginia Bianchi

Those very same ghosts are the ones that appear in the next exhibited artworks: her passed away mother and her unborn child… or actually children – in the exhibition only one abortion is fully mentioned, but she had two: ‘After three [abortions] you start going mad. I’ve had two and I’m borderline.’

The ghosts of motherhood and femininity pervade the rest of the exhibition: the two naked bronze sculptures laying on the floor, leaving us to wonder whether they are unborn foetus or despairing figures; the paintings, representing female figures drawn with such an anger that sometimes they just seem splashes of blood on the canvas; or the silent video she made filming slowly, with a deathly calm, her mother’s box of ashes. The last piece of the exhibition is a 22 minutes-long video where she tells us of her first traumatising abortion in 1990, and of how that experience has had a profound impact on the rest of her life. Her strength, once again, consists in how she doesn’t hide, how she explains in full details how it went, how she calmly doesn’t spare us anything of that story.

In one document, contained in one of the two vitrines collecting intimate and improvised writings from her archive – some are also on sheets with the logo of hotels where she was staying -, she writes ‘Always so alone, so scared – so not wanted.’ And she has that incredible power that only very few artists have nowadays, of making the viewer feel discomfort as if her despair was theirs.

But, of course, only if you are open to embrace her works. That is why she is such a controversial artist: by thinking rationally, by examining her technique, one will never get to the bottom of her works. I feel it to be a bit like looking at a Pollock and saying ‘My child could have done that!’ One also need to consider the fortnights of tears the author spent creating that same artwork you are admiring today.

No Love, 2018 © Virginia Bianchi
(from left) I watched you disappear. Pink Ghost, 2018; I was too young to be carrying your Ashes, 2017-18; You were still There, 2018 © Virginia Bianchi