‘Craftwork presents a simplicity and security not often associated with sensation. Through the action of “sewing” out her stories, Emin adds an extra personal touch to her work, making it more believable and genuine. She is literally spinning the yarn of her life: ancient diary entries, love letters, childhood memories, conversations she’s never forgotten. It’s storytelling in the tradition of folk art, patching security blankets for healing and nurture’ (P. Ellis in C. Saatchi and P. Ellis, 100: The Work that Changed British Art, London 2003, p. 209).
Adorned with bold statements in Tracey Emin’s characteristically selfdeprecating style, Terminal One is a powerful example of the artist’s celebrated appliquéd blankets. Drawing upon her past fears, former fixations, present libidinal preoccupations and her anxiety over the future, the raw expression and immediate impact of Emin’s pluriform post modernism distinguishes her work from that of her contemporaries. Rising to fame as one of the leaders of the iconic group of young British artists, or yBa’s, alongside luminaries such as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas in the 1990s, Terminal One, was made during a climatic moment in Emin’s career. Executed in 2000, a year after Emin was shortlisted for the Turner Prize for her seminal piece My Bed, 1998, and three years after her appliquéd tent, Everyone I have ever Slept with 1963-1995, 1995, was exhibited in the pivotal exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, the present work resonates with the international excitement surrounding the artist at this moment.
Meditating on passed love, in Terminal One Emin has roughly stitched round a large white blanket, bisecting it across its horizontal axis with blue stitching. Cut from sentimental items of clothing donated by friends, phrases such as ‘HOW COULD I EVER LEAVE YOU’, ‘I LOVE YOU’, ‘I AM WET WITH FEAR’ and ‘I AM INTERNAT IONAL WOMAN’ have been intentionally sewn onto the white landscape of present work with large uneven stitching. During her time as a painting student at the Royal Academy of Art in the late 1980s Emin’s art was deeply inspired by the work of the German Expressionists. This passion for raw self-expression is masterfully translated in her appliquéd works, like Terminal One, in the way in which she treats the expressive medium of sewing as though an outpouring of paint. Testament to Emin’s ingenuity, the conflation of her powerfully legible and unashamedly narrative mediations with the deliberately raw aesthetic of frayed edges and rough stitching imbues Terminal One with a potent and arresting immediacy. Recounting a life of both organic and contrived incident, Emin’s art of revelation in her appliquéd works is intimately convincing, pointing to the enormity that lies beyond concealment. She first began to integrate sewing into her work in 1993 in Hotel International which was exhibited at her exhibition My Major Retrospective 1963 – 1993 at White Cube in the same year. Each blanket starts off working with what Emin knows, ‘It’s about very, very simple things that can be really hard. People do get really lonely, people do get really frightened, people do fall in love, people do die, people do fuck. These things happen and everyone knows it but not much of it is expressed. Everything’s covered with some kind of politeness, continually, and especially in art’ (T. Emin, quoted in S. Morgan, ‘The Story of I,’ in Frieze, no. 34, 1997, p. 60). As Emin has noted in conversation with Mark Gisbourne, of all her different forms of artistic expression her appliquéd works are informed by her most vivid and important memories because of their lengthy creation process. The materials the artist choses to cut her statements from are what Emin considers ‘high altar material, associated with events’ (T. Emin, in conversation with M. Gisbourne, in K. Mey (ed.), Sculpsit: Contemporary Artists on Sculpture and Beyond, Manchester 2001, p. 68).
Titled with punchy appellations such as Terminal One and Helter Fucking Skelter, 2001, Emin’s appliquéd blankets subvert the traditionally held view of sewing as a meticulous feminine craft and instead represent the concept of appliqué as a form of collage, an arena of self-expression. Expanding on this point, Emin remarked ‘I have always treated my blanket making more like a painting in terms of building up layers and textures’ (T. Emin, reproduced at http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/ art/features/stitches-in-time-quiltmaking-as-contemporary-art-1921331. html [accessed 5th January 2014). As Rosemary Betterton has widely discussed, there is a visual correlation between Emin’s expressive appliqué and that of the Suffragettes with their hand stitched protest banners. Although Emin’s work operates largely on a personal, experiential level, in Terminal One she appears to make a larger gesture for her gender by concluding: ‘I AM INTERNATIONAL WOMAN’.