Magazine article Tate Etc.

Perfect Bedfellows

Magazine article Tate Etc.

Perfect Bedfellows

Article excerpt

One of Tracey Emin's best known and most controversial works, My Bed, first made in 1998 and now in private hands, is on long loan to Tate and on display at Tate Britain. To accompany its return to the gallery (it was first shown in the Turner Prize display in 1999), Emin has selected two of her favourite paintings by Francis Bacon, an artist she has long admired

Simon Grant Why did you choose two works by Francis Bacon to show with My Bed?

Tracey Emin Nicholas Serota and I were talking about how to present My Bed. Some people suggested showing it at Tate Modern, but I wanted it to have a very different context, not with my contemporaries, or in a 'best of British' kind of selection. I wanted to make a statement with it, so I said I'd like to show it with Bacon, because I thought there would be a really good dialogue between the intensity and anger in his work and the way the bed has this sense of collapse and seems completely forlorn. And there's also this kind of debauchery and craziness going on between both artists, but done in a completely different way.

SG So from all the Bacon works at Tate, you chose 1952's Dog and 1961's Reclining Woman...

TE When I saw Dog I said yes immediately. It has an insaneness about it. The whole thing is completely strange; this dog is trapped within a hexagon-like shape and spinning around in its own space as if wanting to escape. The background looks like Los Angeles or somewhere non-British. It's a fantastic painting-the technique is so minimal. How did he know when to stop working on it? With Reclining Woman, I never knew Bacon would look at a woman, let alone paint one. It's not what you'd expect at all. So maybe it was a man who he thought looked like a woman? I like the waves of the bed, the way it resembles a river. I like the blood red colour- it is so intense. It would have been too obvious for me to show one of his bed paintings. This isn't obvious, because if has this landscape quality. With My Bed, its strength is getting the sense that someone has just got out of it. In the Bacon picture, if this figure were to get up, you'd see where she had been lying.

SG Is there something about the way that he focuses on the single figure that connects with a lot of your drawings?

TE Yes, but in a lot of his paintings, even if there's one figure, it looks like two. They appear to be fighting or fucking, or there's one coming out of another. I preferred Reclining Woman because it seemed to me to have much more of a connection with My Bed. We don't need to see two figures fucking or fighting. With the bed, we can see the condoms, the stains on the sheets and all the detritus of love and sex. We don't need to see that again in a Bacon painting. What we need to see with the bed is that someone lonely walked away from it.

SG Is that sense of loneliness something you see in the Bacon pictures?

TE Definitely, especially Dog. It is something that as an artist you always feel at some time. You can't be everyone's best friend and be a good artist - you'd be kidding yourself. Jackson Pollock? Who would want to have dinner with him?

SG Especially if he urinated into your fireplace! Did you ever meet Bacon?

TE No. I only ever saw him once-on South Kensington tube station. We passed on the escalator. We didn't make eye contact.

SG Was he on your radar when you were a student? …

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