Tracey Emin: Living Under the Hunters Moon at White Cube

Tracy Emin
Living Under the Hunters Moon
White Cube Mason’s Yard
25 – 26 Mason’s Yard, London SW1Y 6BU
25 November 2020 – 13 February 2021
All images copyright and courtesy of the artist and the gallery

The paintings, neon, sculpture and film in this exhibition take their cue from the elemental, sometimes primal, artistic expression that defines the art of Tracey Emin. Timed to coincide with the major exhibition ‘Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, the presentation culminates with a screening of her 1998 film Homage to Edvard Munch and all My Dead Children.

The title of the exhibition is drawn from a painting that references the ‘Hunter’s Moon’, a variation of a full moon that appears in October or November in the northern hemisphere. Also called a ‘Blood Moon’, this lunar event became known within traditional folklore as the best time for nocturnal stalkers to track and catch their prey. For Emin, who often paints throughout the night, a different kind of quarry is captured in her painting, which shows a couple locked in a carnal embrace atop a blood red mound of gestural marks. In another work, This Was The Beginning (2020), the figure is the conduit for expressions of turmoil and passion, and ultimately, salvation. The treatment of the motifs in the work convey the physicality and expressionism that is so familiar in Emin’s paintings. A reclining body is seen both emerging and collapsing in a tumult of vigorous brushwork and pentimenti strokes; the life force that is the figure, with its crimson contours, bursting out from a background of ghostly, whitewashed passages.

A palette of dark red and blue predominates in Absolute Fucking Desperation (2020), where forms are repeatedly overlaid with robust brushwork, creating an active depth of field within the composition. The partially visible outline of a recumbent figure collapses into an abstracted topography, with strong, staccato strokes punctuating the form, emanating the energy of its making, with stains and drips running down the canvas.

The sculpture in the centre of the ground floor space, There was so much more of me (2019), is the truncated form of a woman which appears both eroticised and defenceless. Kneeling as if in supplication, with legs splayed apart, the figure is bold yet vulnerable.

In the lower ground floor gallery, the film Homage to Edvard Munch and all My Dead Children shows Emin on a pier crouched in a foetal position. The camera pans across to reveal the backdrop of a bay, with its waters shimmering in the sunlight. This is the view from Edvard Munch’s house at Åsgårdstrand in Norway, which featured in a number of his paintings. A moment elapses before an agonised and prolonged scream fills the air, a reverberation, perhaps, of Munch’s most celebrated work The Scream.

Emitting a warm yellow glow, the neon I Made My Way To You (2020), is situated in the adjacent space. As with so many of Emin’s neon works, there is an ambiguity to the statement, which can be read as a personal declaration from one lover to another, or resonate across time, from one artist to another. Alongside this sits the maquette for The Mother: a public art commission permanently sited on the city of Oslo’s Museum Island which will be inaugurated in 2021. The final manifestation of this intimate and tender portrayal of a mother will be a monumental bronze sculpture visible across the fjord. As Emin has said of the work: ‘The Mother sits like a Sphinx, waiting for the tide, looking out to sea – protecting the home of Munch’.