Exhibition: Tracey Emin & Louise Bourgeois – Do Not Abandon Me

Tracy Emin and Louise Bourgeois, Do Not Abandon Me, The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, until 23 October 2011

If you didn’t get a chance to see Tracey Emin (whose major retrospective has just finished showing at the Hayward Gallery) and Louise Bourgeois’ collaborative series Do Not Abandon Me when it showed at Hauser and Wirth in London earlier this year, then there’s still a chance to catch it at The Royal West of England Academy in Bristol. The collaboration consists of sixteen intimate works made over the past two years. These drawings, made shortly before Bourgeois’ death, articulate physical drives and feelings, candidly confronting themes of identity, sexuality and the fear of loss and abandonment through joint expression.

‘Do Not Abandon Me’ originated with Bourgeois, who began the works by painting male and female torsos in profile on paper, mixing red, blue and black gouache pigments with water to create delicate and fluid silhouettes. Bourgeois then passed the images on to Emin, who later confessed: ‘I carried the images around the world with me from Australia to France, but I was too scared to touch them’. Emin overlaid Bourgeois’s forms with fantasy, drawing smaller figures that engaged with the torsos like Lilliputian lovers, enacting the body’s desires and anxieties. In one, a woman kisses an erect phallus; in another, a small fetus-like form protrudes from a swollen belly. In many, Emin’s handwriting inscribes the images with a narrative, putting into words the emotions expressed in Bourgeois’s vibrant gouaches.

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