Emma Cousin - Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Charity Auction London Wednesday, March 16, 2022 | Phillips
  • Emma Cousin is a painter and draughtsman using the human body to explore the ways in which human experience, relationships and communication between the self and others are structured. She is interested in exploring the normative tensions within contemporary society and theories of the post-human body, employing a darkly comic parade of female and androgynous characters to embody these positions. She extends this, using her own body to understand movement, sensation and limitation. Her works respond to the restrictions and humour of language, using ideation to explore meaning and articulate both the complexities of human experience and emotions in order to consider how we might interact without it.

    Drawing is foundational for Cousin, who often uses a colloquial phrase or saying as a starting point for works on paper before turning to paint. A Helping Hand, a new drawing made specifically for Whitechapel Gallery, shows three interconnected figures with sinuous arms, enlarged hands and carnivalesque faces. As is typical of Cousin’s work, here the gesture is emphasised – coloured-in with pencils and Tipp-Ex, each hand is highly charged. Cousin’s work is often double-edged. Hands, in this instance, may be helping as the title suggests, but also threatening, aggressive, prodding. 

    'I draw all the time, to work things out, to understand things and to think through experiences or feelings. Words often trigger drawings. I’m interested in the economy and directness of line and how to bring the life of the drawing into the painting, like combining two languages.'
    —Emma Cousin

    Install shot from White Cube; credit White Cube Gallery and Ollie Hammick


    Emma Cousin (b.1986) gained her BA from The Ruskin School of Art in 2004-2007. Recent solo exhibitions include Niru Ratnam (2021); White Cube, London (2021); Goldsmiths CCA, London (2020); Milton Keynes Art Centre, UK (2019); Lewisham Arthouse, London (2018); and Dolph Projects, London (2017). Recent group exhibitions include Soft Bodies, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, UK (2020); Jerwood Arts exhibition Survey at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK, The Bluecoat, Liverpool, UK and G39, Cardiff, UK (2019); Ridiculous, Elephant West, London (2020); and Ultra, J Hammond Projects, London (2019).


    Artist portrait; credit: Faris Mustafa 
    • Description

      Image: Damian Griffiths

      Condition reports, Lot descriptions and information in respect of Lots included in this Online-Only Auction have been prepared exclusively by Whitechapel Gallery following Whitechapel Gallery’s assessment of the Lots. Phillips and its staff are not responsible in any way for such statements, representations or opinions or for any other information provided in respect of the Lots, whether by Whitechapel Gallery, on Phillips website or in any other form.

    • Provenance

      Donated by the artist


A Helping Hand

signed, titled and dated 'Emma Cousin A Helping Hand. 2022' lower right
pen, pencil and Tipp-Ex on paper
30.5 x 22.8 cm (12 x 8 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2022.

Full Cataloguing

£1,500 - 2,500 


Contact Specialist

Charlotte Gibbs
Head of Sale
+44 20 7901 7993