I saw the Tracey Emin retrospective ‘Love is What You Want’ at the Hayward Gallery today. I used to shun her art, thinking it had nothing but shock value, but a visit to Liverpool Anglican Cathedral changed my mind. She has created a pink neon lit sign with the words ‘I Felt You And I Knew You Loved Me’, which is displayed underneath a huge stained-glass window to stunning effect. You could interpret the words in a religious way or, as I did, in a non-religious way – and find them equally moving.
I’m not keen on all of her work, but some of it, especially her films, neons, appliqué blankets, and her works about pregnancy, are thoughtful and beautiful to me. My favourite piece in the exhibition is a neon with the white words ‘You Forgot to Kiss my Soul’ in a pink heart.
There is a huge, complex-looking neon rose called ‘White Rose’. And there is a blanket called ‘Mad Tracey from Margate. Everyone's been there’, made of pieces of clothing that friends donated to her. At the bottom, she has appliquéd these lovely words: ‘In turkey we say when you learn to love a rose you learn to love the thorns’.
The exhibition finishes on Monday, but please note that some of the work is sexually explicit, and the Hayward Gallery asks that under-16s be accompanied by an adult!