Loneliness, fragility, isolation, vulnerability – these are all words which spring to mind when viewing the works in this show by Edvard Munch and Tracey Emin. Where Munch presents naked emotion in colourful daubs of paint, Emin appears to strike at the canvas covering it with wild lines, drips, smudges of single colour and intense scribbles. It’s very interesting seeing the work of these two artists – born 100 years apart – in the same space. It’s unsettling seeing the emotion of Emin’s very frank assessment of loss in her life laid bare. I’ve no idea what was happening to her when she was making these works but the sense of abandonment and unrequited love is very strong.
Munch appears to be more the observer. He feels for his subjects – weeping women, women standing naked in chilly, inhospitable environments and situations. It’s hard to know whether he’s projecting his own emotions into these figures or whether he’s responding to them. But clearly Tracey Emin has responded to his work with a mix of passion, respect and reverence.
I admire her confidence and bombast in displaying so many canvases – mostly painted between 2017 -18 – which capture her innermost feelings. Of course, that is what Emin is famous for; her own life and the experiences and painful episodes, are always laid bare. She never seems to be the observer, she IS the painting, she is the subject.
I’m sorry that she’s been through such a tough time with her health recently. Listening to her talking about her work and her life she sounds far more positive and happier than these paintings suggest. Of course, they come from a different time. Perhaps, when she returns to work we’ll see work which reflects her newly cheerful outlook. I do hope so.
The Loneliness of the Soul is on show at the Royal Academy, London until 28th February 2021.