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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 18:18 GMT
Emin's end of the pier show
The installation is broken yet beautiful

Brit art's agent provocateur Tracey Emin has opened her biggest solo exhibition - not in her trendy London base, Hoxton, but in the traditional city of Oxford.

And as an artist who has shocked, disgusted and delighted, she has once again pulled off a surprise - her latest installation is a beautiful, evocative piece that screams out "happy childhood".

The broken jetty or pier with a fishing shack atop also shows off a talent for capturing the essence of all things British.

Yet the giant This is Another Place installation draws on her mixed race birth, her childhood in the seaside town of Margate and the time she spent in Cyprus, from where her father hails and where they both regularly visit.

Courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube (London)
Remembering 1963 is an example of her applique
The exhibition marks the reopening of the Museum of Modern Art, now called Modern Art Oxford, where there is space and light to show off Emin's vast catalogue of work.

She complains that even with her own first British solo show in years she still had trouble sifting it down to her best work - despite 150 pieces already on display at a retrospective in Amsterdam.


This whole exhibition, also called This is Another Place, mixes old work with new pieces such as embroidered blankets and drawings.

Some still depict her obsession with sex and its ability to oppress, stemming from the childhood rape and abuse she suffered.

Emin says she delights in the fact that the more famous she becomes the more her rapist must squirm with fear that the secret will come out.

"I like to scare people as much as they scared me," she said.

"Perhaps one day I will just write the name in big letters."

There is little to suggest in some of the exhibition that her work has grown up. There is still swearing and bad spelling, plastered in neon lights, paint and thread.

But she admitted that while collating her work for the exhibition she had shocked herself at the amount of swearing, dubbing it "Tourettes' world".


She decided that if she had to choose between two similar pieces, she would choose the one without swearing, because otherwise it would have "just been everywhere".

The pièce de resistance of the show is the jetty installation, a magnificent work which could have a myriad of meanings for viewers.

Tracey Emin
Emin has never shied away from taboo subjects
"I felt that no one got my work because it was so narcissistic and about me so I would look at other structures to draw, such as my beach hut at Whitstable," says Emin.

But as she muses about the influences for her installation, which is made from reclaimed timber, much of the anger often associated with Emin dries up to be replaced by a more wistful approach to her work.

"I like the fact that much of what was used was discarded and would most likely be burnt, but can be used again to become something beautiful. It is romantic," she said.

Emin also appears to shake off her image as an artistic wild child with a video installation called Hard Love, which is essentially the artist pruning the roses in her own backyard.

The video wa shot only days before the exhibition opened, by her friend Sebastian Sharples.


Although it looks unscripted, Emin had been waiting for autumn and a dry day to get outside and shoot the film.

And she confesses to be being a keen gardener and a cat lover. Her cat Docket has a cameo in the seven-minute film, which destroys much of her "bad girl" image.

Emin says she still "gets the bit between her teeth" at times when her aggression comes out in her art.

But her only reaction to MP Kim Howells' recent derision of the Turner Prize, which she was nominated for in 2001, was to say he is entitled to his own opinion.

My Bed by Tracey Emin
Emin may be best remembered for her bed piece
But she is still angry at what she sees as Labour's failure to appreciate the efforts of conceptual artists like herself.

The jetty installation with its weather beaten facade and broken structures symbolising fragility, could spell a new era for Emin - although it may not be for what she is eventually remembered.

It no longer looks like she is making art simply for shock value - something she denies she ever does - but is looking outside herself to create a thought-provoking and emotive piece of art.

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