In September 1980 Emin began a two-yearfashion program at Medway College of Design. During this time, she met thenboyfriend, Billy Childish, who she says, “was the first person in my life whoshowed me there was a different way of doing things: that gave me the greenlight to go ahead in life and art. So instead of feeling on the outside Irealized that there was an outside and it was called “being an artist.”1 Traceywas introduced to the work of German Expressionists such as; Egon Schiele andEdvard Munch. These would remain dominant figures of artistic influence wellinto her career. Emin’s exposure to life as an artist led her to pursue abachelor’s degree in art from the Maidstone College of Art in Margate. Shestudied under the printmaking course, graduating in 1986. The years Traceyspent at Maidstone were come of her best years.
The following year Traceycontinued her artistic education at the Royal College of Art in Londonconcentrating in painting. This time proved to be immensely different from herundergraduate career, making it the lowest point for Emin. Her final year atthe Royal College ultimately led the artist to give up on art for a period oftime.
She had acquired a mass amount of debt, her paintings were not wellreceived, and to make matters worse she endured an unexpected failed pregnancydue to previous health complications. She describes this time period as her”emotional suicide.”2 Hopingto regain her mental and emotional awareness she enrolled in philosophy classesat Morley College in 1991. Emin studied theories and beliefs that helped her tounderstand the work of artists like; Carl Andre, and Yves Klein. The followingyear she met fellow British artist, Sarah Lucas. Even though Emin’s emotionalbreakdown was still affecting her, she collaborated with Lucas to open The Shopin 1993. The Shop was located in a former doctor’s office in London’s East End.3 The tworeferred to themselves as The Birds and used The Shop to sell handmade goodsembedded with implications of the artworld and satirical gestures.
At this timeTracey began to create things again, using her childhood atrocities andstruggles in college to fuel her creative energy. The artists’ goal with themarketplace was create a space for the artist collective known as, YoungBritish Artists. The artists associated with the group began through theircollective time spend at Goldsmith College. Although Emin’s educationalbackground was different, her views and artistic practice aligned with themembers of group.
The YBA included artists such as; Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas,Cornelia Parker, Christine Borland, and several others. The distinctivecharacteristics of the Young British Artists included their “openness toprocess and materials and shock tactics.”4 Theartists also engaged with the fact of life and art being intertwined and useddiverse mediums in order to achieve their goal. Emin became one of theprominent figures of the YBA. The chaos and varying emotional tolls Emin enduredthroughout her young adult life continued to fuel her artwork; informing themeaning of her work. 1 Ibid. pg.21 2 Emin,Tracey.
Tracey Emin, 20 years. Edinburgh: National Galleries ofScotland, 2008. Pg. 22 3 TraceyEmin: love is what you want:.
London: Hayward Gallery, 2011. Pg. 11 4″Provocation, Subversion, and Class: A Look At The Young BritishArtists.” The Panoptic. September 27, 2017.https://thepanoptic.co.uk/2017/09/27/provocation-subversion-class-look-young-british-artists/.