Eilleen Cooper’s ‘Nightingales’
Eileen Cooper’s Nightingales depicts a couple with arms intertwined in a close embrace, a pair of nightingales flanking them. Made during the coronavirus pandemic, Cooper has embarked upon a series of works that explore the subject of companionship. These emerging compositions return to a more narrative focus in her work, with animals often playing a significant role.
Lockdown in London prompted Cooper to reflect on family ties and friendships lived at a distance, imagining how each person might be handling the difficult days. The composition of Nightingales relates to a drawing Cooper made of her friends and neighbours the previous year; however, she has used the work to explore themes more widely universal.
The work, with its characteristic use of graphic, decisive line and flattened space, transforms her friends into contemporary icons, revelling in small joys, like human touch and birdsong in the air. As Cooper has said ‘like everyone, I was aware of birdsong in the first quiet days of lockdown, and ever since.’
As with much of Coopers recent work, this image explores the powerful tension created between the universal and the particular, and of the real and the imagined. The birds come to represent our renewed and deepened relationship with nature during a turbulent time, as well as referencing our hospitals, and our sense of hope.