“She Came to Stay,” the title of Rook & Raven’s new group show (working in association with Marlborough Fine Art, London) takes its name from one of the most heart-wrenching and vivid novels written by the canonical feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir. The book, a thinly disguised account based on de Beauvoir’s relationship with fellow intellectual and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, recounts the couple’s tumultuous and at times violent affair with another woman. Subtle and relentlessly honest, Beauvoir’s text is now the inspiration for the London gallery’s curation of paintings that address themes of existential angst, feminism, and unfettered sexuality.
The painters whose works are on display may vary wildly in age and style, but they share a drive to create works based on individual experience and a penchant to trouble the idea that perception is entirely objective—particularly when it comes to the modern female experience.
Eileen Cooper, an English painter and printmaker who rose to prominence during the ’80s, is known for her surreal, figurative works of female bodies. In works such as Forest Green (2014) and Veil (2013), those bodies, rendered in bright colors and thick lines, twist into shapes playful or morose.
Also focusing on portraiture, though in a far different style, is Annie Kevans, whose recent batch of washed-out, tender close-ups focus on the faces of women who have been largely erased from history, including artists Käthe Kollwitz and Marie Bracquemond.
Also on view at Rook & Raven are the works of Paula Rego, the famed Portuguese printmaker known for her complex and sometimes sinister images, many of which combine mythology with the artist’s own childhood memories. In unique, hand-colored prints like Woman and Marabou (1996), Rego treats of issues of gender identity through elements of magical realism.
The graphic narrative paintings of the young French artist Marie Jacotey and gestural, abstract works printed by Lucy Farley in monotype are also included, offering fresh contrasts to the other female artists represented. “She Came to Stay,” encompassing a broad range of techniques from the worlds of printmaking and painting, finds cohesion in the drive to find narrative and meaning in the chaos of human experience.
“She Came to Stay” is on view at Rook & Raven, London, Jun. 25–Aug. 22, 2015.