Tracey Emin’s newly unveiled bronze sculpture, I Lay Here For You (2018), lays in repose, in wait and possibly in state beneath a tree in a forest glade in Jupiter Artland’s grounds. Monumental in scale, Emin’s six-metre construction of a woman’s body lays her bare, with her secret self, face down and possibly in the throes of some private ecstasy.
A hand is tucked under the bent thigh, bum perched high, while a distorted head bites the pillow of earth that cushions her. The body itself seems to ripple with the current of some erotic charge, every muscle and sinew taut with some unseen force. No teddy bear’s picnic this, Emin’s creation is getting back to the garden, like a prodigal Eve reclaiming original sin, or a horny Titania still dreaming of donkeys the morning after her midsummer madness.
The setting here is crucial. The woods are a place for secret trysts and magical happenings, ill met by moonlight or otherwise. They are a dark Eden to get lost in, hidden by trees that become barren, only to be replenished with new life as the seasons turn.
Love, anger, sex and death ripple throughout I Lay Here For You, both in this new permanent work, and in the temporary exhibition of evocatively titled monotypes, paintings, works on paper and small sculptures that accompany it in Jupiter Artland’s indoor spaces. The majority of these were made during the two-year limbo of pandemic induced lockdown, when enforced isolation was compounded by Emin being diagnosed with cancer in 2020. The oldest piece, the two-and-a-half-minute film, ‘Homage to Edvard Munch and All My Dead Children’ (1998) is a howl of anguish that here serves to illustrate how far Emin has come.
Though she survived both the pandemic and cancer, a feverish urgency runs throughout the exhibition, in an emotionally driven splurge that seeks to pin down those fleeting moments of pleasure before they are lost forever.
With titles such as You Just Kept Wanting Me (2022); Really I don’t Think I have ever Been Alone in Life or death (2022); and a triumphal Because I’m so Fucking sexy. I was born sexy And I will die sexy (2022), most depict figures in bed, set down in restless scribbles of Indian Ink or Gouache. Whether at rest or in motion, these bodies are part of a much bigger psychodrama.
This is Emin bursting out of her social bubble and erupting in a flurry of desire sired by the pulsing behemoth down in the woods. An evocation of power, passion, pain and purging in equal measure, I Lay Here For Youis Tracey Emin shouting out loud, a woman alone, but who embraces the call of the wild forever.