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
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review