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
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test