Spring 2023 brings the highly anticipated opening of The Tracey Emin Residency in Margate, cementing the towns reputation as an ever growing arts oasis. We preview the UK’s most revolutionary new free art school and meet some of the artists selected for the programme – Jorge Cruz, Jessie Nash and Bianca Raffaella
In 2022 Tracey Emin bought an old Victorian bathhouse, blessed with extraordinary light, tucked away in a backstreet of Margate. After over a year of careful renovations to turn it into professional artist studios and a home for The Tracey Emin Residency (TEAR), trailblazing established artists such as Lindsey Mendick, Ghazaleh Avarzamani, and Jose Campos (Studio Lenca) have moved in.
The studio space I’ve created is free, the tuition is free, the lectures…. all they need to do is find a way to come to Margate and live here
The revolutionary (and free) art school will be run from a specially designed academic and studio complex on one side of the old baths. 10 upcoming artists personally selected by Emin are about to travel to Margate from Uganda, Zimbawbe, USA, Australia, Hungary, the Isle of Wight, Scotland and England. They will learn from an extraordinary array of artists including Emin herself, Rachel Whiteread, Jack Chapman and Michael Armitage. As well as gallerist and museum directors Jay Jopling (White Cube), Dr Cliff Lauson (Somerset House), Dr Nicholas Cullinan (National Portrait Gallery), Tim Marlow (Design Museum) and Hans Ulrich Obrist (Serpentine gallery).
TEAR has been funded wholly by Emin, including the use of proceeds from ‘Like a Cloud of Blood’, one of her first paintings created after recovering from bladder cancer, and a painting that she thought she would never part with. It was sold for £2.3 million at Christies last year, close to three times its estimate.
“If my art can make something happen for the future, then I’m doing the right thing,” says Emin. “I grew up here, it’s part of me, it is part of my DNA, it’s part of my thoughts. For the first time in my life, I feel like I know what I am doing and what I’m here for. The studio space I’ve created is free, the tuition is free, the lectures…. all they need to do is find a way to come to Margate and live here.”
We spoke to three of the first students to make their way to the seaside town to study at TEAR: Jessie Nash, Bianca Raffaella and Jorge Cruz.
Civilian: How did you find out about the residency and how was the interview for it?
Jorge Cruz: I found out about the residency through Tracey herself when I first started speaking to her through Instagram, she just mentioned to me that she had plans to make a residency happen and was on a mission to help underrepresented or artists that will otherwise fall through the cracks and don’t have the means to get that exposure.
Jessie Nash: A friend of mine got in touch to encourage me to apply. I toyed with applying for quite some time, before then having dinner with the mum of one of my best friends, who separately brought up TEAR and she thought I would be a really strong and appropriate applicant. I respect her a lot as a mother, a friend, and an artist, so that was the nudge that pushed me to finally just throw my hat in the ring.
Bianca Raffaella: I absolutely loved the face to face interview with Tracey and Elissa [Cray], they made me feel completely comfortable and at ease. I don’t know how, but they both managed to bring out my humorous side. The conversation flowed, and I spoke about my emotional journey and my life experiences. Quite personal topics came up, but I didn’t feel judged at all, it was an open and safe space.
There are some serious heavy-hitters in the art world coming to tutor you, who are you most excited about?
BR: Waldemar Januszczak, I love his fresh and vibrant approach to explaining art and his enthusiasm. He’s made art accessible for those who haven’t had a traditional art history education. I’m looking forward to hearing what he says about my painting. If anything.
JC: I’m so excited to meet Xavier Hufkens, I don’t know what is it about him but every artist his gallery represents I just absolutely love, it’s the way he chooses artists and the way he presents their work. I have always been a fan of that gallery. He works with Walter Swennen, who is one like an artist that I really like.
JN: The sheer array of visiting tutors excites me as a whole. The opportunity to hear from Michael Armitage or Rachel Whiteread one day, and then discuss the importance of accounting or perhaps the construction of a website the next, seems like something most would look over.
JC: I’m really excited to meet Michael Armitage. He’s a great artist.
JN: I am an avid listener of Katy Hessel’s podcast.
BR: I absolutely loved her book ‘The Story of Art Without Men’, A celebration of female creativity and the role of women artists. It made me realise there is a legacy of recorded female artists dating back to the 16th century.
JC: It’s going to put me in front of so many influential people. I hope that the residency takes my work to the next level. I think Lucien Freud’s assistant is coming, and Louise Bourgeois’s assistant. I just want to hear them talk. I have so many Lucien Freud and Louis Bourgeois books.
What is your art work about?
JN: The everyday, or my “everyday”. Things I know and encounter that perhaps I could easily disregard or go without observing. I am really just trying to slow down, look at how the world has stayed the same, while at the same time it has changed. I am interested in thematic patterns through art history, and how I can relate them directly back to myself and my surroundings.
BR: My work is about overcoming difficulties such as my visual impairment, body dysmorphia and an eating disorder. It’s about my creative identity and how I relate to my surroundings. My paintings are reflections of my visual realities. My colour pallet is personal and linked to my eyesight. Texture is intensified and because I cannot see distance beyond a metre, I interpret the world around me in an unusual way.
JC: My art is about life and emotions and sentiments. I want to put the terrifying and odd, maybe at times conflicting and awkward or contradicting reality of life into my work. This is a part of life that I feel like it is very important, and I feel like that is my role of as an artist to speak about and put the things on to the canvas that are hard or uncomfortable to see sometimes. My art is not about pleasing people. Two emotions drive me when I work – love and sadness. I feel them so strongly, they need an outlet. Painting has been the saving grace of my life.
BR: Painting is a force inside me its linked to my personality. I have to paint and it defines me. It releases anxiety and gives me a reason to live.
JN: I think it’s a blessing and a curse really, it’s an indescribable sensation that I can’t remember ever being without. It just feels like something that has to be done, for myself and hopefully for the greater audiences who take something from the questions I ask, the observations I make, and the work I generate.
BR: My mother is an artist and she taught me all her painting and drawing skills. She always encouraged me to paint and draw. The ophthalmologist told her when I was a baby to encourage what I could see, not to dwell on what I couldn’t. I want to give hope with my paintings that sight loss isn’t an end to creativity.
And how do you feel about the move to Margate?
JN: I grew up on the northeast coast of Australia. For the last two years I have been living a really quiet, isolated lifestyle in the northern rivers of Australia, painting in a shed. Margate is nothing like where I am from, which makes it all the more exciting for me – the change of elements, scenery and inspirations.
JC: I live in Brooklyn and I’m always making the journey between there and Manhattan. There are always things happening on monumental levels, I feel like all of those things can be overwhelming sometimes. I think Margate will be distraction free, or at least at least that’s what I hope. Margate seems like a lovely town by the seaside and I love seaside towns. Water is such a precious and inspiring element
BR I think its an exciting new change and I’m ready for it. But the most challenging aspect for me to move to Margate is keeping, learning new routes and locations around Margate without mobility assistance. C