Tracey Emin: I hope to ‘get past Christmas’ following cancer diagnosis

By Ted Hennessey, PA
·3-min read

Tracey Emin has said she hopes to “get past Christmas” following her cancer diagnosis earlier this year.

The artist, 57, was diagnosed in spring and underwent an operation in the summer after discovering the tumour in her bladder while working on a painting of a malignant lump.

Emin, known for works such as the tent Everyone I Have Ever Slept With and My Bed, told the Sunday Times Magazine she does not want to “waste time”.

She spoke of overcoming depression last year following the death of her 19-year-old cat, Docket, by deciding to move house, which helped her deal with the news of the diagnosis.

A Fortnight of Tears
Tracey Emin said she could ‘deal’ with her cancer diagnosis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Emin told the magazine: “When I found out I had the cancer, I could deal with it because I thought, this has actually come at a good time, not a bad time.

“I was feeling happy, excited about my future – anything could happen, like the stars were aligning.

“I just felt really good. I’m excited about moving to my new house. I want to stay indoors and paint. I want to work. I don’t want to waste time.”

Asked what her ambitions are now, she said: “Well, it’s a lot different from what it was before, to get past Christmas would be a good one.”

Many of her reproductive organs were removed during the operation and she was fitted with a stoma bag.

Since her operation, Emin has been unable to paint, although she has worked on a series of photographs of her own body as part of an “existential” project.

Speaking about the painting of a tumour she was working on, she told Artnet: “It’s exactly the same as my bladder with the tumour in it, before I knew I had the cancer – it’s brilliant!”

Emin recently completed a new collection, Detail of Love, which opens this month in Brussels.

Tracey Emin’s My Bed at Christie’s – London
Emin is known for works such as My Bed (Nick Ansell/PA)

She told the publication: “At my age now, love is a completely different dimension and level of understanding.

“I don’t want children, I don’t want all the things that you might subconsciously crave when you’re young – I just want love.

“And as much love as I can possibly have. I want to be smothered in it, I want to be devoured by it. And I think that is OK.”

She also reflected on the Me Too movement and how she had previously been criticised for discussing her own experience of sexual assault.

Emin said: “Now, there is a language for women to express themselves, thanks to Me Too.

“It’s good that times are catching up, but I wish I hadn’t been accused of being narcissistic back then.”

Recent years have seen Emin move from London to her home town of Margate and sell her home in Miami, temporarily giving up drinking and socialising to focus on her work.