Returning From Rock Bottom
Tracey Emin | Contemporary Artist

  • Why You Should Care
  • Bio
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  • Made By
Why Should You Care

Tracey Emin is no stranger to hardship. Surviving below the poverty line in order to pursue art, Emin’s tenacious and industrious spirit kept her focused during the most challenging time period of her life, her 20s. After a letter-writing campaign and successful solo show garnered attention, Emin finally made serious traction in her career and finally starting “making a living from art.”

In this interview, Emin talks about her letters, what she believes truly makes you an artist, and her first solo show.

Biography

Iconic London-based artist Tracey Emin has been has been recognized as one of the leading figures of the ‘90s YBA (Young British Artists) movement. She is noted for her provocative and sexually explicit work and was inducted into the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2007.

Tracey Emin was born in 1963 in the seaside town of Margate on the English coast. After leaving school at an early age, Tracey enrolled at the Maidstone College of Art, Kent, to study printmaking and continued her studies at the Royal College of Arts, London.

Emin lived in poverty throughout her twenties, struggling to sustain herself as well as pay off her student debts.

Tracey, however, broke through the art scene in her 30s with the following works:

In 1997, her work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent with names sown on it, was shown at the Royal Academy in London.

In 1999, Tracey was a Turner Prize nominee and exhibited My Bed — an installation, consisting of her own unmade dirty bed with used condoms and blood-stained underwear.

Today, Tracey is regarded as one of Britain’s most significant contemporary artists. She is internationally recognized for her blunt, personal, and revealing style, which elicits a broad spectrum of emotions ranging from shock to empathy to self-reflection. Drawing on personal experiences, Tracey often portrays painful situations with brutal honesty and poetic humor in a wide variety of media including painting, drawing, embroidery, neon, installation, sculpture, and film.

Read It

The thing that made me retain faith in my 20’s, and I thought about suicide a lot in my 20’s, but the thing that kept me going was I kept thinking it can’t get worse than this. It can’t get worse than this. When you’re really at rock bottom, there’s only one way and that’s up.

It was either jump off a bridge or do something radical. I came up with an idea out of pure desperation. I went and got a lot of letters photocopied – forms, and I asked people to invest in my creative potential for 10 pounds. I spent all my money on stamps, photocopies and envelopes. And I sent these letters to every single person I knew.

And the next week, I got 8 letters bak, which was 80 pounds. So, one week, I had 12 pounds a week to live on, and the next I had 80 pounds. And slowly the letters started coming back… 10 pounds, 10 pounds, 10 pounds. And these people had invested in my creative potential, and that made me feel really good.

Made By

Cinematography: Gabe Wilson & Danielle Calodney

Audio by: Andreina Velazquez

Edited by: Danielle Calodney

Interviewed by: Laura Lehmann



Danielle Calodney

Danielle Calodney has been called the Chief Content Officer for 20to30, and that is the closest she has ever come to a proper title. She produces, shoots, and edits most 20to30 videos while also taking care of the site. She is grateful to live in a time when playing on the internet and making movies can be combined into one job.


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