Continuing the Tate’s In Focus series, a new exhibition compares important works from Tracey Enim and William Blake in this unique pairing of artists.
Not only is it the first time Enim’s My Bed has been displayed in the north of England. Alongside the works of British poet and artist, William Blake (1757–1827), they are presented in the context of the empty bed, symbolising the absent figure and emphasising themes of spirituality, birth and death.
What was the initial seed idea that brought together Tracey Emin and William Blake?
What parallels exist in their work? And how have you brought them together?
How have you combined the joint display?
At the heart of the display is My Bed, bathed in a dramatic spotlight it forms the heart of the display. My Bed, along with recent figurative drawings by Emin from the Tate collection, will be shown alongside those of the William Blake. Presented in the context of Emin’s empty bed, and symbolising the absent figure, there’ll be a number of Blake’s large ‘illuminated’ plates, including The House of Death 1795-c.1805 and Pity c.1795 and other figurative works.
Has your curatorial experience impacted upon the decisions behind the new display?
It’s important to propose new and more nuanced ways of understanding art, away from the usual readings. Tracey Emin’s My Bed is such as well-known work. As well as taking something private and presenting it in a public space, we also wanted demonstrate how the bed has been a powerful symbol across literature and art history, for example in the work of Edward Munch.
|Enim personally rearranging My Bed|
Is there any specific reason behind the timing of this show?
Tracey Emin & William Blake in Focus is the second of the In Focus series at Tate Liverpool where we create a display dedicated to a significant artist using works from the Tate collection. Earlier this year we presented Matisse in Focus and brought his iconic work The Snail to the north of England for the first time. We’re proud to be focusing on Tracey Emin in this context.
Has Tracey Emin commented on her ‘collaboration’ with Blake?
When we met, Tracey was excited by the idea of her work being exhibited alongside that of William Blake. I think she understands Blake as a romantic who didn’t compromise in his artistic vision. In this way, the work of both artists is incredibly honest, combining personal with spiritual themes.
In your opinion, how would Blake have innovated in the wake of the 21st century in light of this new display?
While deeply religious, Blake was also a radical and held unorthodox political beliefs and a hatred of materialism. His work reflected his age often in a critical way. For example, he stood for women’s rights and was against the slave trade and also created work in response to the French Revolution. He also understood the role of artist in society in visionary terms and created illuminated books to propagate his ideas. If working today, I think he would belong to the grand tradition of artist intellectuals, creating work and commenting in a public way on what he perceived to be the hypocrisies of 21st-century.
What other interesting and innovative displays do have in the future pipeline at the Tate?
The next In Focus display will be Roy Lichtenstein in Focus from September 2017. This free display will present more than 20 paintings including works on paper and reliefs by one of the great American pop artists of the twentieth century. We also have an exciting exhibitions and display programme coming up this autumn that features the work of pioneering artists Yves Klein and Edward Krasiński as well as a new commission from Cécile B. Evans who will be bringing robots into the gallery!
Thanks to Darren Pih at the Tate Liverpool for this interview 🙂
|Tracey Enim’s ‘All For You’|
On now until 3rd September 2017
Liverpool, L3 4BB