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Meaning & Analysis

Tracey Emin is an artist who placed at the centre of her art her disarming intimacy, her raw disillusionment about life and her emotional honesty. She is also an artist that speaks of love, loss, loneliness and sex through the use of the naked female body. Her nude torsos best emblematise Emin’s interest in lived female sexuality, and the way it comes to be determined through longing and desire, but also loss and abandonment.

The works included in the Torsos collection present the viewer with the headless torso of a female body. The images are rendered in Emin’s distinctive and instantly recognisable brutal scrawling and her trademark left-handed style. The lines are simple, imprecise, sketchy and rushed. Like in her Nude Drawings and Nude Self-Portraits, the emphasis of the images is on the female form, with every external detail reduced to the minimum, so much so that the figures seem to float on the paper.

What distinguishes these images from Emin’s nude drawings is the heightened focus on female pleasure. It is here perhaps more than in any other series that Emin’s debt to Egon Schiele comes to life. Taking from the Austrian Expressionist painter and his immediately recognisable sexually-provocative female nudes, Emin’s female protagonists are likewise engaged in sexual acts and autoeroticism. However, the tentative, blurred and oftentimes smudged lines of the drawings also endow them with a sense of delicateness, fragility and vulnerability. Her un-idealised palette of blues, dark greens and blacks similarly convey this pervasive sense of loneliness that meddles with the sexual nature of the images. For the artist, her headless torsos are “symbols of lust and loneliness”, and embody the emotional ethos that permeates Emin’s oeuvre.