“Nights at the Circus,” an exhibition of new work by celebrated British artist Eileen Cooper, will be opening at Sims Reed Gallery on 4th March 2021 – marking Cooper’s second show with the gallery. The presentation takes its title from Angela Carter’s seminal novel, Nights at the Circus, from which Cooper developed the featured works. Published in 1984, the book incorporates multiple categories of fiction, referencing fairy tales and weaving them into magical realism — themes that frequently appear in Cooper’s work.
The opportunity for “Nights at the Circus” arose with The Folio Society commissioning Cooper to create illustrations for a new edition of Carter’s novel. Revisiting the novel elicited deep connections that tied Carter’s characters with imagery in Cooper’s work and subconscious. The result reveals a new body of work on paper which combines motifs inspired by the literary work and ideas drawn from her own imagination. It is a very personal interpretation of the story told through Cooper’s eyes.
Angela Carter’s feminism mythology appealed to Cooper, and she was particularly drawn to the protagonist Sophie Fevvers: ‘‘the celebrated Aerialiste, a cockney Virgin, hatched from an egg and ready to develop fully-fledged wings.’’ Many of the female characters – including Sophie’s motherly figure Lizzie, Mignon, the Princess of Abyssinia and Sybil the pet pig – resonated with Cooper. Together with their developing love stories, these elements all wove their way into her work. The exhibition celebrates the notion of a female heroine and the theme of performance.
The subjects of the Princess of Abyssinia and the tigers, Walser and the Bear, and Fevvers with her wings, all touch upon themes already present in Cooper’s art over many years. Her engagement with the literary work allowed many pre-existing themes in her work to resurface, and the result is this colourful new group of collages and prints.
The “Nights at the Circus” exhibition is comprised of twenty works on paper of unique collages, monoprints, a linocut, plus a new woodcut to be launched by the gallery. Prices range from £600 for prints to £1,500 for collages – click here for more information. The exhibition coincides with the launch of a new Folio Society edition of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus illustrated by Eileen Cooper, available exclusively from 1st March 2021 at www.foliosociety.com. For more information about the artist, go to www.eileencooper.co.uk.