Reading for research… Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

Tracey EminI bought this book in the gift shop at the Hayward Gallery in London after Emin’s ‘Love is What You Want’ exhibition in 2011. My Life in a Column is a collection of the columns written by artist Tracey Emin for The Independent newspaper over four years. I picked it up because a) I remembered reading some of the original columns and finding them amusing, and b) at that time I was toying with the idea of making a character in my new novel a controversial artist. So who better as a role model then Tracey Emin?

The book turned out to be so much more than the controversy linked with Emin by people who don’t know much about her. I found her fascinating, the highs and lows of her creative process were a great inspiration for my character Justine Tree in Connectedness.

She writes: “Faced with the daily prospects of failure and self-loathing, a numb chrysalis starts to develop around you, and if you are not careful you wake up one morning to find yourself not awake, but in a semi-comatose state, baked into a hardened shell, breathless and mind-numbing. You have to poke your finger through the hardened crispy shell, and after you’ve pushed it through you have to wiggle it about until eventually the hole is big enough to smash a whole fist through. That’s what it feels like when I’m alone in my studio trying to paint.”

It inspired me to write a scene when Justine is an art  student in Málaga, Spain in 1983. She is struggling with an assignment titled ‘Inside I am always a child.’ The blank canvas on her easel taunts her, her untouched paintbrushes taunt her, she feels unable to look inside herself to find the answer, unable to even pick up a pencil and draw a line on the canvas.

If you like art, try these other books I also read as part of my research for ‘Connectedness’:-
‘Breakfast at Sotheby’s’ by Philip Hook
‘Lucky Kunst’ by Gregor Muir
‘The Yellow House’ by Martin Gayford

Tracey Emin


‘Connectedness’ by Sandra Danby, #2 ‘Identity Detective’ series [UK: Beulah Press] 

To read an extract from Ignoring Gravity, #1 ‘Identity Detective’ series, click here.

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Researching #art MY LIFE IN A COLUMN by @emininternation via @SandraDanby