Tracey Emin on her cancer self-portraits: ‘This is mine. I own it’May 13, 2021
As she starts to rebuild her life after surgery, the artist shares her unflinching self-portraits taken during treatment, talks about seeing dead people in hospital walls, and explains why she’s buying herself a punchbag – and kittens
‘I’m smiling and talking to you,” says Tracey Emin, sitting at her kitchen table. “But it’s not always like this.” We’ve been delaying this conversation until she finally felt well enough. She has been spending a lot of time in bed, just resting. On the phone, she sounded weak, but today she is indeed smiling, getting excited as she speaks – the Tracey who I have been fortunate enough to get to know.
“Now I’ve got a terrible pain in my legs, it’s unbearable. That’s why I’ve been in bed. I’m determined to go for a walk later because I hardly ever go out. I have a urostomy bag, so I have a major disability. The more well I get, the more annoying it is. Previously it was all right because I was on morphine. But now I want to do things and I can’t.”