‘Emin’s blankets are voice-works. It’s as though they were hung out and caught language as it passed through them, from tiny detail to huge declaration’ (A. Smith, ‘Emin’s Emendations’ in Tracey Emin: Love is What You Want, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 2011, p. 27).
Meticulously handstitched in a subtle palette of rose and cream, Super Drunk Bitch is an outstanding example of Tracey Emin’s renowned textile works. Exhibited in the artist’s first major retrospective Tracey Emin 20 Years at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2008, the work is part of the major series of appliquéd blankets that, since 1993, have played an integral and definitive role within her groundbreaking practice. Operating as open canvases for candid self-expression, the blankets epitomise the irreverent aesthetic that first brought Emin to public attention as a central figure of the young British artist (yBa) movement. Within a hugely diversified output, it was Emin’s textile-based works that catapulted her to international acclaim. Coming to prominence in the early 1990s with the hand-made items sold in the Bethnal Green shop she shared with Sarah Lucas, Emin went on to create her notorious 1995 fabric tent, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, shown by Charles Saatchi in his seminal 1997 exhibition Sensation at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Poetic and profane, Super Drunk Bitch continues the rich legacy of this trailblazing work, positioning the viewer as both voyeur and confidante of Emin’s emotionally charged monologue.
Executed in 2005, the work was exhibited in the same year in Emin’s solo show When I Think About Sex at White Cube, London. This show marked something of a turning point in Emin’s palette, replacing the bright colours of her earlier blankets with the paler, creamy fabrics of the present work. ‘I wanted to do something I could live with in my own home’, claimed Emin (T. Emin, quoted in C. Higgins, ‘Tracey Emin takes a new look at herself’ in The Guardian, 27 May 2005). In Super Drunk Bitch, delicate floral decoration belies the bold declamations and intimate confessions of its painstakingly embroidered text. Slogans of declaration and accusation, both imperative and imploring, feature alongside fragments of Emin’s own handwriting and drawing, transforming the work into a polyphonic mood-board of deeply personalised, almost diaristic outpouring. In its contrapuntal articulation of diverse emotional registers, Super Drunk Bitch showcases Emin’s celebrated use of the blanket as a unique vehicle for her own contemporary story-telling.
In their innovative use of textile media, the blanket works reinvent the tradition of handicraft that fuelled the feminist art of the 1960s and 1970s. Often created using recycled fabric from Emin’s past - sofa coverings, sheets, fragments of clothing - they resonate with the autobiographical work of Louise Bourgeois, an artist whom Emin greatly admired. Merging personal introspection with the punchy one-liner aesthetic of advertising billboards and protest banners, the blankets navigate seamlessly between the public and the private. In this capacity, they continue to represent one of the most iconic strands of Emin’s practice.