For her second solo exhibition at the Huxley-Parlour Gallery, British artist Eileen Cooper is set to present 11 new works on canvas for her exhibition: Somewhere or Other.
While encompassing enduring themes of sexuality, creativity, fertility, and relationships, the works in Somewhere or Other recognise a darker side of Cooper’s remit by considering desire and isolation, mortality and conflict.
Painted over the last two years between London and Suffolk, this latest body of work continues Cooper’s interest in autobiographically inflected narrative. With characteristically bold, lyrical, and emphatic line, the works in the show are influenced by the landscape, folklore and the timeless atmosphere of the Suffolk coast and countryside, whilst drawing particularly on its reputation as archaeologically fertile. In Somewhere or Other, paintings suggest ancient habitats, vanished communities, the romance and threat of the North Sea, and the timeless rituals of civilisations both distant and present.
These paintings are charged with a sense of escape and expectation. Cooper’s figures are often depicted as meaningfully connected with the earth, often viewing the landscape from unusual perspectives: from within trees, or from walking level. Recurringly, figures lie on the ground: supine or prone, their languid postures connote resting, sleeping, and dreaming. Bodies of water such as ponds or lakes and rippled, caressing trees are present throughout the collection of works. Here, Cooper anthropomorphises the landscape; lakes, branches, and reeds take on an enchanting presence. In these richly narrative paintings, Cooper presents her subjects in exacting – and sometimes precarious – tableaus, often posed in a way which suggests impending action.
The title of this body of work – from Christina Rossetti’s poem, Somewhere or Other – is fitting for a series which delights in cryptic figures, symbol, and allegory. Present in the work, too, is a subtext of cross-generational relationships, ageing, and inevitably mortality, as Cooper reflects on her creative journey, her own multiple roles as painter, mother, and draughstman, and confronts new ambitions at this stage in her career. In much of Cooper’s work, the exchange and conflict between a woman’s life and her artistic journey is always present. In this exhibition, watery surfaces become mirrors that reflect an economy of presence and change in this landmark body of work.
Originally from the Peak District, Cooper has lived in London since moving to study at Goldsmiths in 1971, and then the Royal College of Art in 1974. Cooper went on to teach at many schools, including Central St Martin’s, the Royal College of Art, City & Guilds, and the Royal Academy of Arts. Her exhibition history is extensive across national and international institutions, including group shows at the ICA, Whitechapel Gallery, The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Barbican, The Courtauld Institute, London; The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh.
Cooper’s work is in several, prolific collections such as the Arts Council Collection, the British Museum, Kunsthalle, Nuremberg, Germany, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Collection, Women’s Art Collection, University of Cambridge, Pallant House, Dallas Museum of Art, The Jerwood Collection, Towner Art Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Walpole Library, Yale. From 2019 – 17 Eileen Cooper served as Keeper of the Royal Academy – significantly, the first woman to be elected to this role since the RA began in 1768, and in 2016 was awarded an OBE for services to Art and Art Education.
On 10th September, Parallel Lines: Eileen Cooper and Leicester’s Art Collection opens at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery. This major survey exhibition brings together – for the first time – works created throughout Eileen Cooper’s career presented in conversation with paintings, drawings, prints, ceramics and sculpture from Leicester Museum & Art Gallery’s permanent collection.
More information can be found online at www.huxleyparlour.com