Julian Schnabel: 'I wanted to share Tracey's story with everyone I met'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

"Like a fucking dog when the truth is hard to bear; I waved goodbye to my mum at the school gates."

I've read these words aloud on more than one occasion. This is the title of a story from Tracey Emin's book Strangeland. At the time, I wanted to share it with everybody I met. I don't know the exact date of when it was written. I'm under the impression that it was written as a diary entry by the teenage Tracey. I wouldn't be surprised if it was written yesterday. I was so impressed by this book that I'd like to recommend it as required reading for young people everywhere; the loneliness, the fragility, the disappointment and honesty, the clarity of all of it.

Suggested reading: "Like a fucking dog when the truth is hard to bear"; "Nayland Rock"; "Why I never became a dancer" – Hades, read the whole book for God's sake. She's a teenage Charles Bukowski, a Sam Shepard, giving Margate the distinction that Marty Scorsese gives to Little Italy. The cradle and site of adolescent crimes, unconscious acts, and brutal truths that form who we are and the scenes that made Tracey an artist.

Strangeland, published a couple of years back, was the beginning of my friendship and affection for Tracey and her work. I had seen a small object that shouted "Fuck Modern Painting!" at a friend's house, and thought: is that work addressing me? Later, I asked Tracey and she said it wasn't, and it made me feel more comfortable to let her visit my studio when she arrived in New York.

As a practising artist myself, I have spent a lot of time looking at other people's work, at students' work, too, and I've always found myself saying: make it personal. The battle between personal and generic is the battle between good and bad. Tracey's need to be honest supersedes all decisions in her life and art. The crystalline presentation of the most intimate and private emotions are what she wants to share with us. Sometimes not easy to stomach, and at the same time precious, prismatic tears, poignant with loss, broken lines charting broken hearts, and brokenness tied back together, like a bundle of sticks supporting the weight of our disasters and victories as we pull ourselves together in the rain of our time here, in and out of love.

I think of her towers, shacks, boardwalks, her rollercoaster, ramshackle, pointing up to the sky out of junk.

I've always thought there's no personal language, just a personal selection – and that goes for materials, too. So in many cases, an artist is not the first to work with that material, but artists do make the materials their own, and as William Carlos Williams says, "the truth is in things". And Tracey Emin's selection of what to present carries alchemic truth and magic.

Artists claim materials, and once you've seen a work by that artist made of those materials you can never look at those materials again without seeing that artist. When I look at the Madrid sky, I say to myself: Goya. If I see an unmade bed with a bunch of stuff around it, I think of Tracey.

Paint becomes menstrual blood, and body fluids, and bleating cries of muffled marks, and leftover marks and stains and traces that don't let us escape the violence that God and gravity have laid on us. Delicate and blatant, in your face, but never behind your back, she is a communicator, needy for communication about things that must be shown, searching for a form, whether it be sewn cloth, paint on canvas, wood, plant, human, animal, drawings on paper, found things strung together leaning towards the divine light. There's no lying in her.

Tracey Emin – 20 Years, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, from tomorrow to 9 November. Tickets £6 (£4 conc) 0131-624 6200; www.nationalgalleries.org

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before