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Jan Patience: Art’s bad girl Tracey Emin is open and honest as ever and still captivating

© Keith HunterTracey Emin : I Lay Here For You.
Tracey Emin : I Lay Here For You.

I’m a big fan of Tracey Emin, one-time art bad girl and key member of the group of Young British Artists (YBAs) who burst on to the world stage in the ’80s with conceptual in-yer-face installation art.

Emin was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1999 for her now infamous My Bed. She claimed to have spent a week after a relationship broke up in this unmade bed, complete with vodka bottles, cigarette butts and pregnancy tests strewn around it. Emin didn’t win but given the media attention, she may well have done.

I didn’t get what all the fuss was about until I went to see her first major retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh in 2008. My Bed was in residence – and much more besides.

It blew me away. I remember thinking that in her own way, Emin reflected the life of a young woman of her times (and my time) in all its messy, mind-blowing glory. Fast-forward 14 years and Emin is back in Scotland; at Jupiter Artland, just outside the capital at Wilkieston, West Lothian.

I Lay Here For You brings together new work by Emin, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2020.

The pandemic, together with this devastating illness has relit Emin’s old urgency to reflect her immediate world through art.

Beds feature once again. This time on the wall as places of refuge and love.

This ability to translate deep feeling into drawing, painting, sculpture and writing has always been Emin’s default position. Brutal and hard to view sometimes but never less than honest.

This brilliant solo show in the beautiful buildings and gardens at the heart of Jupiter Artland is on until the end of September. There is also a permanent new sculpture, also titled I Lay Here For You, in a nearby beech-grove.

Venture into the woods and encounter Emin’s huge female figure lying prone on the ground. Sexy, defiant and as happy in its own skin as three tonnes of bronze can be…

Artists I know are always being approached by charities to donate work to good causes. Although most artists are self-employed, many do so willingly and generously. This Wednesday, a major fundraiser seeking to raise £50,000 to support families affected by the conflict in Ukraine opens at Glasgow’s Pentagon Centre.

It runs until Saturday. There will be work on sale by more than a hundred Scottish artists, including David Mach, Barbara Rae, Adrian Wiszniewski and Ken Currie. Not to be missed!