HOW WE MET: SARAH LUCAS AND TRACEY EMIN
Sunday 12 October 1997
SARAH LUCAS: In early 1992, I held my first one-person show, at a gallery called City Racing. It was called "Penis Nailed to a Board". A load of people went to the pub afterwards and that was where I got into conversation with Tracey. She was wearing a stripy T-shirt, glasses, had lots of curly hair and was very enthusiastic about the show. We both talk a lot when pissed.
I think she enjoyed my work just because it was very bold, and I think she liked the look of me. I remember her saying she liked the fact that she saw me laughing in the corner of the gallery.
Soon afterwards I went round to her flat for a cup of tea, because I was having housing problems, and I was surprised by how practical she was. She can also be incisive, which was good when we went on to have the shop together. I'm someone who goes through life being nice: I want people to like me. Whereas Tracey's tough. She wouldn't hesitate to tell someone to get out of the shop if she was fed up with them, so in that way we balance each other quite well.
What I like best about Tracey is that she's exciting. We started to have a lot of ups and downs, and I thought I didn't want to be in a relationship with someone ... but she was the person to do the shop with because she was brave and exciting. I knew that it would be a real change. We had the shop for six months, and met a lot of people in that time. It changed things for both of us. It changed things for others too. Some of the most important people in my life subsequently have been people I met then.
But Tracey likes to be melodramatic and that can get on my tits. We have lots of ups and downs. In fact, we have some nasty conversations, conversations that I don't have with other people, because Tracey says what she thinks even if it's a bit unpalatable. I don't bear a grudge, but when we row it must look pretty funny from outside.
Having a close friend who's in the same profession as you - those things are always difficult. Tracey and I did shows at the same time this year and hers opened two weeks before mine. I'd been busy all day and I walked into her opening, saw it hanging there and my heart just dropped, mainly out of fear that mine wasn't sorted out at all. Those feelings are quite shocking when you have them because you think you're wiser than that. But it's just real life. I admitted it to her, but I don't think she would have admitted it to me.
People often think my work is autobiographical because I use images of myself and because some images are very sexy. But my work isn't autobiographical, whereas Tracey's is. I don't care how much of herself she gives away, but as she uses up her history I sometimes have qualms about the way I'm going to be portrayed. My name's in the tent, for example. But you can't be tetchy about it.
I've never questioned the truth of her stuff. Some kind of misinformation goes on whenever you do anything. How can you say true is true? Even your memory sees things differently over time. I would certainly give her a bit of license on that one. But more than anyone I've known, Tracey will be convinced that she saw something in a certain way; even if someone else saw the complete opposite, she would never change her point of view. That bothers me sometimes, because it can be frustrating.
We certainly don't desire the same things in men. Tracey likes a certain amount of aggravation. I like a New Man, someone gentler. She'd probably say that I'm softer than people think. She loves the idea of being vulnerable. I think she's tough as old boots.
She's not a happy person, she swings like a pendulum. During an evening that everyone else thinks is awful, she 'll have the most fantastic time - but she can be miserable, too, on a regular basis.
I worry about Tracey less than most people, partly because I have a certain amount of spite. Sometimes she moans about things and I want to see her get her comeuppance. But she recycles a lot of bad things in her work, so she offloads it in that way: I know she's got that outlet. Besides, she'd be fed up without a bit of melodrama and misery.
TRACEY EMIN: When I met Sarah, I was pinpointed as a bit of a social terrorist - I used to get horrendously drunk. I had got pregnant in 1990, had an abortion and decided I was a crap artist. So I smashed up all my work. I decided it wasn't worth me giving myself any more trauma. It hurt too much. I was very judgmental about art and started judging people the same way I judged myself.
Then a friend of mine at City Racing called to say they were going to show this woman and that I would really like her work. The show was called "Penis Nailed to a Board". I thought it sounded really stupid. I went to the opening - and what I saw was not crap, but amazing, handmade objets d'art.
It was really silly and very funny, but what was amazing about it for me was that she'd knocked it together. She'd stuck it all with glue, banged these things up. I said: "Who's Sarah Lucas?" And someone pointed, and in the corner was this deranged woman, dressed scruffily, laughing her head off and holding a can of Pils. What was bizarre about it was that she was on her own.
I was really on the outside of things at the time. I was doing a part- time philo-sophy course, and working for Southwark council. I went up to Sarah and said, "I really like your show", then we talked - a fantastic conversation - for about 10 minutes. I really liked her, liked her voice. I thought she was really beautiful. I thought her work was absolutely wonderful. When I saw Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab I thought it was what my body was like.
At this time I had very few friends, and after having two abortions I was feeling isolated and not very confident. This woman made me feel confident; the more mad I was the more she enjoyed my company. We were quite in love with each other at first - we bought a beach hut together - but it was quite difficult working out what to do with that love, so for about two months we didn't talk to each other because it was too difficult. Sarah sent back the keys to the hut. She was saying I was a real pain in the backside - but I was manically depressed. I'd ring her up at 3am singing, or really embarrass her. I decided I wanted to be a writer so ... I'd go and get cheap brandy and write. Then I'd go to an opening and get really pissed on my own. She was one of the few people I knew well, so I was quite a liability for her.
We had a dangerous relationship - there was electricity. There was one party in Hoxton where we nearly fell off the roof. Sarah's friends have said that when we were together it was like white noise, really loud.
She's such a generous person - when she allowed me in it was really important to me, as most people had been pushing me away. She and her boyfriend had split up and she asked me if I'd like to share a studio with her. I said no, because I hadn't any money and I hadn't done any art, but I said I'd help her find somewhere. Then we found this empty shop in the East End, and all this excess energy that we'd been battling with, suddenly we saw where it was going.
Doing the shop gave me a platform for my ideas. I initially didn't want to do it because of my depression, and Sarah said she would pay for it with her Saatchi money. She said: "I'm behind you 100 per cent, but you have to be behind me. You have to get up and come in every day, no staying in bed, and no disappearing." In three months the depression had lifted, because I was busy every day. I was the happiest I'd ever been in my life.
Sarah is sweet and caring, but she can also be bolshy. She's one of the few people who can really hurt me. We had a row a few months ago when she didn't talk to me for about five days. But the worst row was over the Fuck Me While I'm Sleeping headstone. There were a few of us at the shop, and we were talking about what we'd have on our headstone. I said I'd have "Fuck me while I'm sleeping". Two years later she showed a headstone with Fuck Me While I'm Sleeping on it in the gallery.
It was nearly the end of our friendship. What upset me was that it was to be my headstone, not a piece of art. Also, it was me who actually said it. I could have used it. I probably would have done.
I said to Sarah: "All I had was ideas, I never had anything tangible." She'd taken that and turned it into a headstone. She said: "Everything's up for grabs." But after she'd shown the piece, she gave me a cast for my birthday, so she gave it back. I had to be big about it because Sarah had done so much for me. It was really a small thing to share.
And why are 'southern' ways of speaking spreading north?
life + styleClarissa Baldwin is the brains behind the slogan 'A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas'
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