At first glance there seems little connecting contemporary British artist Tracey Emin with Norwegian born artist Edvard Munch. Born exactly a century apart, Munch’s best known work The Scream, seems to bear no relation to Emin’s provocative conceptual works, such as My Bed, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, or her neon gas signs. And yet, currently at The Royal Academy of Arts (18 May – 1 August 2021) is Emin’s latest exhibition, Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch – The Loneliness of the Soul, a collection of 25 works by Emin which hang alongside 18 watercolors by Munch, handpicked by the artist herself.
An Introduction to the Artists
What their artworks might not share in style or form, is, in this exhibition, made up by their shared emotions. Both Munch and Emin are unafraid to embrace and lay bare their most painful experiences in their art.
With his mother dying of tuberculosis whilst he was an infant, and his sister dying of the same illness as a teenager, loss marked much of Munch’s childhood. His upbring was also heavily scarred by the neurotic and psychologically damaging behavior of his father. Emin’s own life has been heavily punctuated by tragic events, the documentation of which in her artwork has thrown her under a public spotlight since her graduation from the Royal Academy of Arts in 1989.
Inside the Royal Academy of Arts
It is therefore unsurprising that both artists use art to express the extremities of humanity’s emotional capacity.
In The Loneliness of the Soul Munch’s melancholic nude portraits juxtapose Emin’s tortured female form. In Emin’s work, loneliness transforms into an anguish that surpasses that of the soul. It resides, and is made painfully visible in the bent backs, bloody faces and contorted limbs of Emin’s crucified body. The female form, so coyly positioned and self-contained in Munch’s studies, here, is split open. Emin dissects herself in order to witness the limits of her own desolation.
Despite Emin’s figures completely exposing themselves both physically and emotionally, her raw canvases are marked by a tangible absence. Titled Because You Left, This Is Life Without You, and You Made Me Feel Like This, Emin’s paintings place at the center of the exhibition a nebulous and invisible presence. And yet, just as Munch’s scream echoes within the viewer, all the more for its silence, this voiceless and faceless presence accompanies us from room to room as we witness the aftermath of some unknown catastrophic event.
Munch and Emin’s Influence
This desire to share emotion through art is the very reason that Munch spearheaded Expressionism. It is a vision which many of our artists at SINGULART share. The influence of Munch, as well as Emin, is discernable in many of their paintings and sculptures.
Dagmur Und’s Munch, captures Munch’s spontaneous painting style and color palette, while Nicolae Prisac’s The Scream and Smoking Man 12 explore Munch’s range of emotion and interest in psychology.
Similarly, Michelle Yu Ting Yan, Alexandre Madureira and Badri Valian, capture the different moods of Emin. In their respective artworks, Emin’s bold commentary on femininity, her cynicism and her directness, can be seen.