Eileen Cooper
Nights at the Circus

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Eileen Cooper

Eileen Cooper
Nights at the Circus

4th March - 14th May 2021

Eileen Cooper takes us on a journey through her imagination in Nights at the Circus, her second exhibition with Sims Reed Gallery. Drawing inspiration from Angela Carter’s seminal novel Nights at the Circus, Cooper has created over twenty unique works on paper and prints. We are also excited to launch two new editions with Cooper. Similarly to Carter, Cooper’s work weaves elements of fairy tales and magical realism in her distinctive style, which treads an agile path between realism and fantasy. Revisiting this much loved novel elicited deep connections that tied Carter’s colourful characters with imagery in Cooper’s work and subconscious. The result reveals a new body of work which combines motifs inspired by the literary work and ideas drawn from her own imagination. A very personal interpretation of the tale is told through her eyes.

View the virtual gallery tour here.
View the catalogue here.

Eileen Cooper
Preparatory Sketches

A selection of Eileen Cooper’s initial sketches and linocuts that draw inspiration from Angela Carter’s book ‘Nights at the Circus’.

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Like Carter, Cooper’s work has a particular resonance for women. Carter’s feminism mythology appealed to Cooper and she was immediately attracted to the heroine and protaogonist Sophie Fevvers: the celebrated Aerialiste, a cockney Virgin, hatched from an egg and ready to develop fully-fledged wings. Other female characters – including Sophie’s guardian Lizzie, Mignon, the Princess of Abyssinia and Sybil the fortune-telling pig – also resonated with Cooper.

Cooper shares insights into her approach and inspiration behind a selection of the works in the exhibition. Click on the audio button to hear more from the artist.

Together with their developing love stories and adventures, Cooper rewrites her own narratives within Carter’s story. The exhibition celebrates a female heroine and the theme of performance. Two characters in particular appealed to Cooper’s imagination and form the subject of the two new editions: Blue Moon and Feathers.

Eileen Cooper
Blue Moon

Woodcut printed in colours, 2020.
Signed in pencil. Numbered from the edition of 40.
Printed on Japanese paper by Blackbird Editions, London.
Sheet: 24 x 31 cm.

£600 unframed
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Eileen audio of Blue Moon

”’Blue Moon’ is based on Sybil, the ringmaster’s pet pig, who is very wise and helps him with all his big decisions. Although I’d made a lino block of Sybil for use in my collages, and drawn her again for a chapter heading, I was still interested in developing the idea. This new print, launched with Sims Reed, is a multi-block colour woodcut, hand printed on Japanese paper. The moon appeared right at the end and as I like the song ‘Blue Moon’ very much, it seemed to be an appropriate title. This is only the second ’solo’ animal that I’ve made a print of”. 

– Eileen Cooper

Eileen Cooper
Feathers (2021)

Lithograph printed in black, 2021.
Signed in pencil from the edition of 25.
Printed by Redbreast Editions, London.
42 x 30.5 cm.

£600 unframed
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” ‘Feathers’ is the first lithograph I have made for decades. I thought that lithography was a lovely way to emphasise the black, although the initial image was made on a lino block and then transferred to a lithographic plate. I seldom use straight black, but it’s often in my mind and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. A much smaller version of this image appears on the cover of the new edition of the book by The Folio Society”.
– Eileen Cooper
Eileen Cooper
Feathers

Collage with linocut, monoprint, ink drawing and additional hand-colouring, 2019.
Signed in pencil.
38 x 25.5 cm.

£1,750 framed
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Eileen audio on Feathers

“Fevvers felt that shivering sensation which always visited her when mages, wizards, impresarios came to take away her singularity as though it were their own invention, as though they believed she depended on their imaginations n order to be a woman. She felt herself turning, willy-nilly, from a woman into an idea.”

 

Nights at the Circus, by Angela Carter

Eileen Cooper
Eileen's studio

Eileen Cooper working in the studio on ‘Nights at the Circus’.

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A colour palette is first established and paves the way for Cooper to create handmade, monoprinted papers, which are then torn, cut, layered and assembled as ‘backdrops’ or ‘stage lighting’ for the composition. This unique way of working involves a mixture of printmaking and the use of flat expanses of colour and drawing. These are collaged together to produce these unique works. This has become a new way of working for Cooper, a process that began when she created work for her 2019 exhibition Short Stories with the gallery. Vibrant red, blue and ochre tones form the colour palette here. These colours resonate with her personal memories of the circus and create a visual ambiance for the story’s setting.

“A tiger moves like orange quicksilver, or a rarer liquid metal, a quickgold.”

– From Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

Eileen Cooper
Tiger and Princess

Collage with linocut, monoprint, screenprint, pastel, ink and watercolour, 2019.
Signed in pencil.
38 x 25.5 cm.

£1,750 framed
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“I prepared a large number of monoprinted flat colour backgrounds, which would be my collage material. Then I cut numerous linocut blocks, printing, drawing, painting and eventually collaging it all together. It became the most incredibly flexible way to work, both physical and joyful, imagery and technique developing together.”

– Eileen Cooper

Eileen Cooper
Eileen's process

Eileen’s process of drawing and printing to create each unique collage.

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Eileen Cooper
Kissing Couple

Linocut printed in colours, 2020.
Signed in pencil from the edition of 25.
Printed by Blackbird Editions, London.
28 x 37.5 cm.

£650 unframed
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“Kissing Couple developed from a simple ink drawing reproduced in the book. I got very involved in the image, hoping it could represent the 2 love stories in Angela Carter’s book. These being between the Princess of Abyssinia and Mignon, and the central characters Jack Walser and Sophie Fevvers. As is the case in much of my work, I also strive for a universality in the subject. It’s also the first time I have used silver ink….very tricky indeed”.

 

– Eileen Cooper

Eileen Cooper
The Boy and the Bear 2

Monoprint, 2019.
Signed in pencil.
52 x 43.5 cm.

£1,500 unframed
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Eileen Boy and the Bear Audio

“The Boy and the Bear is a monoprint. I’d never drawn a Bear before and although I wasn’t worried about realistic representation, I didn’t want to trivialise him. Here the boy has moved away from the character in the book, Walser, who dances with the Bear. This boy and Bear seem to be good companions and I’m still developing this theme”. 

 

– Eileen Cooper

Eileen Cooper
Dance Little Bear

Collage with linocut, etching, monoprint and hand-colouring, 2020.
Signed in pencil.
38 x 26 cm.

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Eileen Cooper
Dark Angel

Collage with linocut, monoprint and gouache, 2019.
Signed in pencil.
38 x 25.5 cm

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Eileen on Dark Angel

“We must all make do with the rags of love we find flapping on the scarecrow of humanity.”

 

From Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

Eileen Cooper
Nights at the Circus

Installation images of ‘Nights at the Circus’ at Sims Reed Gallery.

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This exhibition coincides with the launch of a new edition of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus.  The Folio Society edition of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus illustrated by Eileen Cooper and introduced by Sarah Waters is exclusively available at foliosociety.com/circus.

Biography –

Eileen Cooper OBE RA (born 1953), studied at Goldsmiths College of Art from 1971 until 1974, before completing an MA in painting at the Royal College of Art in 1977. She has held teaching posts at St Martins School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. Cooper became a Royal Academician in 2001 and served as Keeper of the Royal Academy between 2010 and 2017. Cooper was given primary responsibility for the Royal Academy Schools, and became the first woman to be elected in this role in the Royal Academy’s 250-year history.

She has had numerous national and international exhibitions, including solo exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts and Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. Her 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.

She exhibited at Sims Reed Gallery in 2019 with Short Stories. Nights at the Circus is Cooper’s second exhibition with the gallery.

All images ©  Eileen Cooper 2021

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