Gleaning bright in the sunshine, Turner Contemporary stands out like a sore thumb against the washed out, dated skyline of Margate’s town centre. Despite its commanding presence on Margate Pier, it blends well into the seascape resting opposite, reflecting the deep sea blues and pale sky pastels onto its panelled, futuristic exterior. Situated just down from the gallery is Droit House, where a pink neon Tracey Emin work proudly pronounces itself: I never stopped loving you. Commissioned by Turner Contemporary in 2010, Emin’s presence is clearly established in Margate from the onset of our visit.
The current exhibition at Turner Contemporary is titled Self: Image and Identity. This display comes as an interesting exploration into the idea of the self-portrait and the way it has been redefined and developed in the contemporary – ‘seflies’ come to mind here. Reflecting back on what we might call the original selfie, the exhibition begins by considering Van Dycke’s last self-portrait of 1640-1, moving forward to the 21st century in a challenging and unexpected display of self-representation.
Highlights from the exhibition include Tehching Hsieh’s One Year Performance (1980-81), a seminal work depicting mugshots of the artist taken every day, on the hour, 24 hours a day. Beginning as a wide-eyed, groomed portrait, the time-lapse work progresses to show a weary-eyed, unkempt man; Hsieh is seemingly older completing the six minute film, which demonstrates his successful commitment to art and creative representation. Other notable works include a presentation of Sarah Lucas’s several self-portraits, including her most memorable Self Portrait with Fried Eggs (1996) and Self Portrait with Skull (1997), and inescapably Tracey Emin’s The Last Thing I Said to You is Don’t Leave Me Here 1 (2000). These photographic works by the well-know female YBA’s are bold and beautiful in their depiction of the artist, using a rough and ready composition. With Gillian Wearing, Sam Taylor-Wood and Louise Bourgeois also in the exhibition, Self appears to be shaping up as a wide demonstration of female artists and their individual perceptions of themselves.