Acclaimed British artist Eileen Cooper to receive a major solo exhibition at Huxley-Parlour Gallery

Eileen Cooper, Studio Portrait, Courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery

Eileen Cooper RA’s upcoming exhibition at Huxley-Parlour Gallery will present an exciting new body of work that fuses objective drawing from life, a new part of her practice, with the instantly recognisable, imaginative works she is known for.

Cooper, who became a Royal Academician in 2001 and served as Keeper of the Royal Academy between 2010 and 2017 (the first female keeper since it begun in 1768) has had numerous national and international exhibitions, including solo exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts and Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.

This new exhibition, entitled Personal Space, will display 15 paintings which focus on the female figure in private and intimate spaces, expanding on themes Cooper has explored throughout her forty-year career, those of universal female experience, primarily fertility, sexuality and motherhood. ‘Personal Space’ is a phrase with a multiplicity of meaning, but for Cooper, who has always painted the female figure, the phrase alludes to the inner life of her subjects, and the complex search to find one’s own identity.

Eileen Cooper, ‘Ruby Red’, 2019, oil on canvas, 36 × 48 in (92 × 122 cm)

The works depict woman engaged in intimate and sometimes simple acts, including brushing or washing hair or applying make-up. Through these works, Cooper investigates the rhythms and rituals of ‘getting ready’; of constructing the version of ourselves we would like to present to the outside world. These images distil many of the themes that interest Cooper, and by depicting these very personal, yet quotidian, acts allows Cooper to explore deeper elements of female identity and subjectivity, opening a door into the inner world of her protagonists’ psyches.

Other paintings celebrate female friendship, sisterhood and sense of self. All of the subjects appear confident, gazing stridently out at the viewer or at their own figures in the multitude of mirrors that populate the paintings. The repetition of this mirror motif underpins Cooper’s interest in self-reflection and self-image, of the affirmation or self-doubt that occurs when confronting one’s own reflected image.

Eileen Cooper, ‘Personal Space’, 2019, oil on canvas, 48 × 36 in (122 × 92 cm)

Although not strictly representational, this latest body of work comes after an intensive year of drawing directly from life, a marked change in the artist’s process, after a lifetime of working directly from imagination. Cooper has skilfully blended this new part of her practise with her characteristic use of graphic, decisive line, flattened space and bold colour palette.

Cooper’s renewed interest in direct observation has seen her produce a wealth of lyrical charcoal portraits made on paper, often of women she has close relationships with, or artists she has previously taught. Cooper was then able to rework and reimagine these drawings onto canvas, the figures stripped of their defining features, but retaining an essential and lifelike essence.

Eileen Cooper, ‘Sisters’, 2019, oil on canvas, 48 × 35 in (122 × 90 cm)

Cooper — whose work is held in many important public collections including The Arts Council of Great Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Museum, London — is indisputably one the country’s most influential female painters and has been a key exponent of contemporary figurative painting over the last four decades. This exhibition provides the perfect opportunity to witness the latest stage of Cooper’s remarkable career and the visceral sense of living that has always underpinned her work.

For more information see:

Exhibition dates: 17 October — 16 November|Private View: Wednesday 16 October, 6–8pm

Freelance journalist covering fine art, photography, film and tech. UK based

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