Eileen Cooper RA
"Work hard and put the hours in, be true to yourself and don’t follow fashion"
Eileen, how would you describe your work in three words?
Figurative, imaginative, female.
Tell me about who or what your greatest influences are? How do these come out in your work?
This has changed a lot over the years. The German Expressionists and Picasso when I was starting out. I always loved the work of Mary Cassatt, Paula Monderson Becker and Alice Neel. A constant source of influence and inspiration has been art from different cultures, Japanese Prints, Indian miniatures, Romanesque painting…..I think if you look at my work its evident…..
What do you believe is the most important aspect of your work?
I make no claims at all, I’m still working hard, hopefully developing my ideas and I constantly hope for new challenges.
‘Women’ are a huge theme in your work, including sexuality, motherhood, female experience and more. Who are these women in your works?
I have a stock answer for this one, the women are both personal and universal.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I am scared of heights.
If you could have a meal with any artist from any time: what would the meal be and who would it be with? Why?
I’ve decided on a living artist to make this easier. Yoko Ono, and Yoko would choose the food for us and we’d order white wine.
Why - because she is a groundbreaking multi media artist, living through an incredible time for activism and cultural change and perhaps because she was vilified for so many years. I think she’d have a lot to say and some great stories to tell.
COULD YOU SELECT A PIECE OF YOUR WORK, AND TELL ME A BIT ABOUT IT?
I’ve been thinking about ‘Play Dead’ lately, from 1991 and its a large painting about my son’s growing awareness of mortality when he was 8 years old. The child is very big in the painting and the mother much smaller. I think it’s also about confrontation and rebellion and, sexual awakening. Obviously, very little of this was in my conscious mind when I was working on it!
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST INDULGENCE IN LIFE EILEEN?
Frivolous things would include shopping at Issey Miyake. Non frivolous would be perhaps indulging my children.
HOW WOULD YOU REFRAME THE CONVERSATION AROUND ART TO GET MORE PEOPLE INVOLVED?
I would avoid all art theory and mystifying artists practice. Instead I would talk about imagery, content, materials, process.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN, AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE?
Be careful who you step on on the way up, you’ll meet them on the way down( I don’t think I ever knowingly stepped on anyone).
My advice is, work hard and put the hours in, be true to yourself and don’t follow fashion.
DO YOU COLLECT ARTWORK YOURSELF? IF SO, WHAT WAS THE FIRST WORK YOU COLLECTED, AND WHAT IS THE JEWEL IN YOUR COLLECTION?
Yes, lots of work over the years mainly by people I taught or other artists in my peer group. The first was a painting I bought is of a boy and a Tiger by Dexter Dalwood ( whom I taught ) I have many things I love. Maybe a picture that hangs outside my studio at home, a photogravure by Eve Arnold of Marilyn Monroe playing pool, which Eve made at the print studio of a wonderful printmaker who I also worked with, Hugh Stoneman.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SHOWS OR EXHIBITIONS COMING UP THAT WE SHOULD BE AWARE OF?
RA Summer Exhibition, opens in the autumn this year and at Sims Reed Gallery, London, in March 2021 - I’m showing new collages
FAVOURITE HISTORICAL FEMALE ARTIST?
You’ve got to admire Artemisa Gentileschi. I have to mention Frida Kahlo and the brilliant Alice Neel. I also love the work of Helen Chadwick, who sadly died far too young.
FAVOURITE CURRENT PRACTICING FEMALE ARTISTS?
Chantal Joffe, Cathie Pilkington, Lynette Yiadom Boayke, Cindy Sherman, Paula Rego, Marlene Dumas, Lubaina Himid, Betye Saar, so many more...
WHO SHOULD SHE CURATES INTERVIEW NEXT?
Sonia Boyce, Nana Shiomi, Cathie Pilkington, Hannah Perry, Rachel Jones, Coco Crampton, Liane Lang, Sikelela Owen, Fani Parali, Rose Wylie, Jessy Jetpacks, Caroline Walker, Annie Kevans.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANTED TO SAY?
Thank you for asking me, good luck with all your projects.