Tracey Emin and William Blake: Shared Concerns

From September, Tate Liverpool will demonstrate a shared concern with spirituality, birth and death in the work of two prominent artists from disparate times: contemporary British practitioner Tracey Emin (b. 1963) and the revered poet and painter William Blake (1757-1827). In a new and ambitious showcase, Tate will juxtapose key pieces from its collection, including one of Britain’s most renowned artwork from the last 20 years, Emin’s My Bed from 1998, which also marks its first appearance in the north of England.

Providing audiences with an unflinching self-portrait in which the artist is absent, the piece draws viewers into a personal, domestic realm; one that expresses themes of containment and isolation whilst asserting the artist’s thematic preoccupations with birth, death, dreams and sex. Displayed alongside drawings by Blake, as well as a selection of her own, a new dialogue on the absent figure is formulated, particularly with regards to The Blasphemer c.1800 and The Crucifixion: ‘Behold Thy Mother’ c.1805.

Standing against the hypocrisies of his age, Blake was highly vocal in his support of liberalism and sexual freedoms, and advocated for unrestrained imaginative freedom of expression. Placed in conversation with Emin’s work, Blake’s pieces exude a Romantic sense of artistic authenticity through existential pain and the possibility of spiritual rebirth through art shared with others.

Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus, 16 September 2016 – 3 September 2017, Tate Liverpool.

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1. Tracey Emin, Monument Valley (Grand Scale), 1995–7. Courtesy of Tate Collection.