I have become interested in several British artists in the course of researching my for my visual studies portfolio. I was looking for artists who have explored their past and their family through their artwork. The two that immediately sprang to mind were Tracey Emin and Richard Billingham. I have never much like Tracey Emin's work, I think partly because I didn't like her much. I found her abrasive and in your face and that is not the kind of character that I am usually drawn to. Plus I had found all the controversy surrounding her bed to be annoying and gimmicky.
This week however, I watched a video about her and now that she has ditched the drink and the bad girl of art personna I found myself warming to her a bit more. It's clear that she had an extremely dysfunctional childhood, and has often had a difficult time as an adult as well. I admire the way that she has explored and come to terms with the difficult times in her life through her artwork - although this can be viewed as narcissistic or egotistical. Introspection is always a good quality to have I think, as long as you deal with your issues and move on and don't become obsessed and hung up on things that happened in the past. I also wonder whether to be a really good artist or writer you need to make some introspective work. It can add depth and emotion to your work and how as artists can we make work that is not related to our experience of the world?
Richard Billingham is another kettle of fish altogether. I saw some of his work a couple of years ago at the Saatchi Gallery in London. He had taken a series of photographs of his parents. The work was very controversial at the time and ther was much debate in the press as to whether Billingham had exploited his family, however his family seemed quite happy with the work. Billingham used his work as a way of coming to terms with his dysfunctional parents who were alcoholics, he took a series of pictures of them as they went about their daily life - these photographs included them drinking and his father lying on the floor drunk. I'm not sure whether this is exploitation or not.
I have also been looking at the work of Michael Landy. His most recent work was a life sized reproduction of his parents house "Semi Detatched", which was in the entrance hall to the Tate Modern earlier this Year. Landy also did an installation afew years ago where he destroyed all of his possessions. An interesting idea - I'm not sure I could do it though.