Eileen Cooper is best known for her work depicting the female body – both nude and clothed, her figures are often found amongst nature. The artist’s work has been described as both mythical and fairy tale-like, with Cooper acknowledging a debt to medieval European and Indian art.
Peace, 2017 specifically plays on a communion between the animate and inanimate, arguably exploring the idea of animism as proposed by Sigmund Freud. Animism, as Freud understood it, was a way of thinking in which humans project their subjectivity onto objective forms such as plants and animals. In his essay Animism, Magic and the Omnipotence of Thought, Freud likened animism to religion and science for its capacity to explain phenomena in the world around us.
Peace depicts a figure curled below a tree: embryonic, the figure’s body is rendered seed-like by a foetal pose. Positioned underground and enmeshed in tree roots, the form speaks to this mythic symbiosis of self and nature. A sense of peace is achieved through a mutually beneficial arrangement by which human and nature are balanced – this is mirrored in the visual similarity between the tree and its roots, with the figure placed at the centre of the two as a symbol for growth, renewal, and balance between the human and the non-human.
While Cooper’s work typically meditates on the theme of ‘woman’, the figure in Peace appears to lack any visual signifiers of gender. Blurring the boundaries between man and woman, sleep and death, the androgynous figure becomes a symbol of metamorphoses, resting peacefully at the centre of this series of subtle exchanges
(By Lydia Earthy)