Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

I had the most amazing dream. I was standing on the bank of a river, on vivid blades of grass
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The Independent Online

I used to love these meetings. We would spend 40 minutes analysing the last book I'd read. Noel's questioning and reasoning would always make me a little bit more intellectually ambitious. Not long after I left Maidstone, Noel died. I remember sitting in a pub reading the letter his wife had sent me, and crying and crying and crying. I had just come back from Turkey and was unaware that Noel had died.

A few weeks earlier, I had the most amazing dream. I was standing on the bank of a river, on fantastic vivid blades of green grass. To my left there was a very elegant suspension bridge, quite Brunel-like in appearance, except not made of iron, but of some amazing, lightweight, white organic kind of steel. And on the other side of the bridge, Noel was waving at me. Great big smile, his red beard and hair glowing in the light. It was only when I walked towards him that I realised the bridge was suspended over nothing, that below me was pure space.

As I got closer to Noel, he said: "You can't come any further. I have just come to tell you how wonderful it is here." And then he pointed to where he'd come from. "Look. Look," he said, and there was the most beautiful crystal tower. I mean pure crystal, light reflecting from every angle. It was at least 300 feet high. I said: "Wow, this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen." "Yes," he said, "I just wanted to show you. I made it. It's amazing here - you can make whatever you dream."

Then, last week, I dreamt of Noel again. We were in a glass room and he was handing over to me a huge roll of banknotes. I said: "I can't take this." He replied: "Everyone gets paid here. They get what they deserve - and you deserve this. It's your reward."

Life enhancement

I have changed my life since passing my driving test, just like I said. Every time I've had a drink - with one exception: the birthday of Sandra ("Oh babe, its the bee's knees, no fleas on my gizmo") Esqualant, my mate and the best pub landlady in the world - I have stuck within the units. Galileo, the wonderful clear light of day. Apart from when I had a kidney infection in 1999, this is the longest I've had my act together on the drinking front. And it feels fantastic.

Back on the mental replacement programme, my highlight this week was going to see the Munch exhibition at the Royal Academy and then having a brilliant dinner at the Wolesley. I actually wrote my art thesis on Edvard Munch on a ferry travelling back from Amsterdam. It was Sunday night, and it had to be handed in on Monday morning. So I analysed four of his paintings using the Oxford English Dictionary. For the painting "Madonna", I used the argument "Mad and onerous". My conclusion being that you couldn't chop up Munch's paintings intellectually, morally or spiritually; they were about passion and emotion, and should be viewed as a whole. Plus, all the titles originally were in Norwegian, so it made no sense analysing them from the English dictionary, la-di-da-di-da.

Professor Machin wasn't having any of it. He gave me a II ii, and said I would have got a First, had I spent longer than two hours on it, pissed on a ferryboat.

What I find incredible about Edvard Munch is the way that he painted women. Women and girls, from the skinny pubescent to the voluptuous Madonna, with her full breast, curvy hips, thunder thighs and rounded stomach. For a man who supposedly had crap relationships, he really did understand the female anatomy.

Is that really me?

I saw a shocking thing yesterday. My friend Sebastian Sharples, who I make all my films with, had put together a small documentary about me me me me me. It was made in the summer of 2003, and there on the screen appeared a brown stick insect with a walnut for a head. I was so thin it was scary, and all the girls in the studio squealed out loud.

If anyone had told me at the time that I was thin (as Mat Collishaw would say, I resembled a shrunken head, something an 18th-century pirate would tie to their belt), I would not have listened. God, let me be generous to myself. It's like the oxygen masks on aeroplanes - you sort yourself out first, and then assist others. I'm too generous to be thin.

A magical place

I am working flat out for my show in New York. Which is called I CAN FEEL YOUR SMILE. The title came from a text I sent a friend whose husband had recently died. It was somehow like the dead wanting us to be happy, as they are in their world.

I have decided to make a 12-foot tower from wood and neon, and I am going to call it "Crystal Tower". I have a photograph of myself when I was three, holding hands with my Nan at Crystal Palace, south London. I always thought it was a magical place. Sometimes I miss my Nan terribly. I once dreamt she was talking to me down a mobile phone, while floating around her bedroom, telling me never to have collagen (can I just add this was in 1995). Nice one, Plum.

So cheers, Professor Machin. Thanks for the idea. Thanks for the reward. And thanks for paying me. Love, Tracey.

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