Tracey Emin draws inspiration from candid details of her personal life for works ranging from drawings and sculptures to tapestries and needlework. Emin rose to prominence in the 1990s as a member of the so-called Young British Artists. Her 1998 work My Bed, is widely considered to be one of the groups defining works.
Among her most iconic works, Emin’s wall-mounted neons reimagine handwritten, evocative texts as luminous drawings in space. She Lay down Deep Beneath The Sea was first presented in an exhibition of the same name in Margate, England, the seaside town where Emin grew up that has provided source material for many of her well-known works. Inspired by the neon signage of her childhood in Margate, Emin began working with neon lights in the 1990s. She employs the industrial medium to convey deeply personal ruminations on the subject of love and the symbolism of language. The phrase, “She lay down deep beneath the sea,” calls to mind an intimate, confessional note that conveys intense feeling. In Emin’s signature scrawl, and lit in a glowing blue, the work and phrase take on an otherworldly quality. The written word is central to all of Emin’s creative output. “Writing is my friend and companion,” says Emin, “and where my thoughts go.” The neons transform Emin’s words into images, and language into an illuminated sculptural form that resonates as both deeply personal and universally felt.
She Lay down Deep Beneath The Sea introduces an important artist to the collection who has made significant contributions to the history of postwar contemporary art. Emin’s neon joins other text-based works in the collection by Jenny Holzer, Roni Horn, Sophie Calle, and Shannon Ebner.