It's Tracey with an 'e' and Edvard with a 'v'

Updated: Jan 31, 2021

It takes years for major art galleries like the Tate to put together retrospective exhibitions, and this pandemic has right royally messed with scheduling. We had been really looking forward to seeing the Bruce Nauman exhibition at Tate Modern, but will it close before lockdown ends? GAH. Please no!

Bruce Nauman, Raw-War (1971)

Luckily some galleries are adapting to the times and attempting to make virtual tours of their current exhibitions. Although this will never have the same impact as seeing an artwork in person, we were delighted to see the virtual tour of the current Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch: Loneliness of the Soul exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Tracey Emin is one of our finest contemporary artists. Her piece Everyone I Have Ever Slept With (1995) listed the names of everyone she had shared a bed with (including her gran), appliqued to the inside of a tent.

It annoyed the hell out of (the mostly male) critics at the time. It was that classic 'Is this art?' refrain, and by a woman too. AND talking about her sexuality. How dare she. We loved it. It did what really good art does: provokes, discomforts, reflects our culture back to us in a thoughtful way, highlighting things we don't like to talk about.

We learn in the current RA exhibition that Tracey Emin has been a fan of Edvard Munch all her life. Munch is perhaps best known for his 1893 artwork The Scream.

It's a shame that this well-worn classic of modern art, so familiar through poster art and then the proliferation of the 'ghostface' mask first seen in the horror movie Scream in 1996, is the best known of Munch's artworks. In our opinion there are many others that surpass this in their ability to stop the viewer in their tracks and just look. One particular piece from the current show is called Reclining Female Nude from around 1917.

It's a little watercolour. This is Munch swiftly representing the essence of a woman in just a few brushstrokes, and just a few colours. There are so few lines here, and yet something delicate and vulnerable is communicated. Imagine this on your wall.

The reason, says Emin, for her admiration of Munch is his complex relationship with women and the respect he shows for them through his work. As the opening lines of the catalogue read, Munch's 'subject matter ranges unflinchingly through grief, loss, longing and the ageing process' and this is what links his work with Emin's. Too right. This piece by Emin from 2018 titled I Never Asked to Fall in Love - You Made Me Feel Like This has that sense of loss and longing. The red paint filling the bottom half of the canvas, dripping down from above, the black mark in the centre, communicate something visceral and human: there's foreboding and pain here.

We're just hoping the RA extends this exhibition beyond it's scheduled close of 28 February 2021 as it doesn't look like lockdown will end before that. But in the meantime folks, it's worth spending 20 mins of your time on the virtual tour - it might be your only chance to see it.

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