As one of the most well-known and highly regarded voices of the Young British Artists, Emin is widely recognised for her profoundly personal, often revealing works. Using a decidedly frank and direct language, the artist explores her feelings and own biography, unashamedly portraying herself and those around her whilst simultaneously inspiring the viewer to contemplate their own experience. In How I Think I Feel IV the artist brilliantly employs her draughtsmanship to great effect; urgent brushstrokes delineate a female body, lying and brazenly exposing her sex. Here the viewer is made to focus on a woman’s exposed genitalia, her head having been cut off the composition. Akin to some of Emin’s most iconic works, such as Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995 from 1995 or My Bed from 1998, How I Think I Feel IV turns viewer into voyeur, reading into the artist’s personal thoughts and sensations.
Quick, bold lines in deep mauve delineate the sprawling body, lyrically bending and folding, softly curving into flesh, legs, breasts; turning into a direct, almost blunt self-portrait. After rising to international acclaim with her embroidered works, in which she used pieces of fabric belonging to her or her friends and family, Emin turned to more traditional media, such as drawing, painting and bronze making. Her embroidered pieces enabled the artist to develop her narrative in a highly personal and unique voice. Through sewing and amalgamating the detritus of her daily life Emin explored her own sexuality, her fears and hopes. Her turn to drawing and painting enabled the artist to explore a different dimension of these feelings, as the artist explained in an interview with Rachel Cooke: “I’ve gone from being a really thin girl - even when I was forty, I was thin - to becoming matronly and womanly. I’m trying to come to terms with the physical changes. There’s a big difference between being thirty-five and fifty. Massive. And that’s what I’m trying to understand. Where does that girl go? Where does that youth go? That thing that’s lost, where has it gone? I’m looking for it in the pictures; I’m looking for it in the paintbrush.” (Tracey Emin quoted in: Morgan Meis, ‘The Empty Bed: Tracey Emin and the Persistent Self’, online). Indeed, How I Think I Feel IV is an exceptional and compelling intimate glimpse into Emin’s own persona, a confident yet poignant portrait that not only exposes the artist’s unique sensitivity, but also prompts the viewer to question their own.
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