The idea of hosting Tracey Emin and William Blake in the same exhibition at Tate Liverpool seemed like a mental one to me. How can two artists, centuries apart, sit together in the same place? On a trip up home I had the chance to have a look and decide for myself.
It was a delight to see Emin’s My Bed in person for the first time. It’s a snapshot of a life in a moment, the detritus of life. But also of a very distinct time. There’s actual photos scattered about. There’s no wire charging cables snaking up on to the bedside table. It’s a still life in sculpture. And time is also starting to impact it. The sheets are getting a bit tatty with time. The packaging on the discarded booze bottles and fag packets is looking out of date.
Around the walls of the room are Blake’s works. It’s almost like this person with the scruffy bed has the most incredible art collection on the walls of their bedroom. I don’t like Blake’s work. They have a weird, nightmarish feel to them. They’re the work of incredible skill and genius, yes, but they make me feel uneasy.
Exploring the exhibition, I felt the link was a bit tenuous. Plumbing the depths between how the two artists perceive themselves and their philosophy kind of makes sense I suppose, but artistically there is nothing to connect them.
In some ways, it’s got much more to its merit. It’s a free exhibition that has been running for months, and will continue all the way to September. Some people will come for Emin and stay for Blake, others in the reverse. Some will come and hate all of it, but at least they’ve seen it.