Billy Chilish and Tracie Emin Chronology according to Eugene Doyen
I meet Billy at Medway College of Design He is producing xeroxed magazines of his poetry, working in drawings, collage, painting and print making. All his work is autobiographical and self-portraits dominate.
I am living in Luton Road when Billy comes back one night with Tracie, who claims she never sleeps and only eats food which is yellow. She is a fashion student.
Tracie moves into Luton Road, Chatham and Billy lifting her and throwing her by her belt is one of the games they play. I move on to May Road at the start of 1982 and Tracie is a regular visitor for tea and photography
Tracie produces a xeroxed poetry book; Miss Emins Squishy, Squashy Spider using the nursery rhyme format that Billy has used. The work is directly autobiographical. She also makes collages from found paper in the manner of Kurt Schwitters. Billy has been producing collages before 1978 and we have worked on a Schwitters film together.
I move in Autumn 1982 to Castle Hill, Rochester. After a few months Tracie moves in to a room in the flat. Billy, Tracie and I make a 16mm short film Quiet Lives, which has elements of their relationship written into the characters.
During all this time Billy is painting, drawing and making prints of Tracie and himself which are expressionist in style and sexually graphic. Tracie takes up lino cuts in the same style, with the same subject.
The relationship between Billy and Tracie gradually breaks up. Tracie enrols on a Foundation Art Course at Maidstone. She moves into the basement flat at Castle Hill.
Tracie is taking a degree in Maidstone and produces prints which are primarily self-portraits and autobiographical.
In relation to Billy Chidishs influences on Tracie Emin :
Billy Childish is without doubt the role model for Tracie Emin as an artist. That her work is autobiographical and overtly sexual stems from his work. Tracies working methods, using printmaking, working quickly, re-working the same idea repeatedly, using Expressionism as a source are all features of Billys work. However, this does not diminish her as artist. She uses her own life, makes her own statements, she has done her own work and made her own reputation. The problem is that some of her detractors might use Billy to undermine her, and could suggest that her work is derivative, so he is being sidelined into the role of the ex-boyfriend and that is not correct. The truth is that without the artist Childish, there is no artist Emin. Tracies work is hers, but Childish showed her what an artist could be and she has gone on from there.
Another reason why Childish has been misplaced in Tracies artistic C.V. is the fact that she has often been taken up by her friends and critics within a feminist agenda as a woman whos been abused by men, maltreated and come through this to express herself through her art. The problem with this female empowerment view is that Childishs account of their love affair, and the relationship I knew, doesnt suit such a one sided account. Yes, there was booze, violence, buggery, fellatio and golden showers, but this was an extreme love affair between two damaged, abused and extraordinary people. The madness and the depravity was enjoyed on both sides, but this version may well be too shocking for most people and is not one which most of Tracies supporters want to embrace.
Overall, I think that Billy has been disappeared not because Tracie doesnt acknowledge to herself how important Billy was to her, theyre still close friends, but because Tracie is wise enough not to fight against the media and the public when shes riding high in public attention.
In relation to Tracie being a fantasist and distorter :
The reason why Ive always liked Tracie is because of her determination to be the centre of attention. Her desire to shock and outrage makes her great fun and also a perpetual distorter and improver of the truth. I believe there are elements of every story that are true, but there are also changes and additions along the way to make them more captivating and Tracie herself more poignant and tragic. This is not lying to decieve, its distortion so Tracie can get the love, sympathy and admiration she needs. Also, I think this is why shes becoming such a successful artist and also famous. Shes dramatising her own life and experience to pass on and sell and the press also want the story. She creates images of herself, and they make you shocked, fascinated and enthralled. It may be a contradiction, but when Tracies lying to you, thats the real Tracie and thats why shes an artist.
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