at RWA Bristol 2nd September-23rd October 2011.


Premiering in New York, moving to London in early 2011 and most recently here at the RWA
Bristol, was an exhibition that divided opinion and, unless you have a heart of
stone, evoked emotion that maybe you didn’t know you felt. Do Not Abandon Me, is a series of 16 collaborative works between
the late and great Louise Bourgeois and the controversial Tracey Emin. The
works explore themes of loss, abandonment, sexuality and identity. Bourgeois
has often made confessional work and Emin is known for self-indulgence, but
isn’t all art self-indulgent in one sense or another?

The collaboration started when Emin wrote an account of her emotions after a visit
to Bourgeois’ home. They then embarked on a friendship that would span over
five years and culminated in the completion of these joint works not long
before the death of Bourgeois in May 2010.

Bourgeois initially painted male and female torsos in profile on paper, with Emin adding
drawings of smaller figures and text that engage with the torsos intimately. It
is interesting to see how the fluidity of Bourgeois, and the drawings and text of
Emin, enable the viewer to identify both artists separately within the work but
also emit the sense of unity and completion.

These works have no doubt divided visitors to the Royal West of England Academy in
Clifton, as the visitor book proves. There are messages of outrage and disgust,
but on the whole, visitors to the gallery find the works to be beautiful,
wonderful and profound.

Personally I enjoyed the exhibition; I wasn’t expecting the work to have such an emotional
effect on me. I felt drawn to works such as When
my c**** stopped living
and I just
died at birth
, both of these incorporate text quite a lot. I found myself
staring at them, wondering what Emin was feeling when she wrote the words that
appear on these pieces. I wasn’t really too bothered about works such as It doesn’t end or Just Hanging, however I still enjoyed viewing them.

These works are brave; those who are familiar with Emin’s life and work will find
these works particularly honest and will identify with the running themes
throughout her work over the last 20 years or so.

Those who are not familiar with the work of Bourgeois, I would advise you to resolve
this immediately as she was one of the greatest female artists of our time.
Bourgeois is one of the worlds most respected sculptors but is also known for
print work, drawing, painting and textile works. She uses life experiences to
influence her work as Emin does.

The exhibition ran at the RWA from September 2nd through to October 23rd.

Ellie Duckett
Pictures Courtesy of