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Nunnery Café Exhibition | Matilda Ellis

Wednesday, April 6, 2022 to Thursday, June 30, 2022
Opening Hours: 
Mon-Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 10am-4pm
Nunnery Café, 181 Bow Road, London E3 2SJ


For the Spring edition of our Nunnery Café exhibition series, we’re proud to present the work of London-based Illustrator and artist, Matilda Ellis. With a mixed-media practice spanning print, painting, drawing, and animation, Matilda’s work explores and teases apart ancient narratives and motifs in an attempt to nurture connections between the personal and historical.

For the work exhibited in this show, Matilda homes in on the poetry of ancient Greek poet, Sappho and how fragments of words passed down and translated through time can still have an incredible emotional resonance – particularly for the queer community.

See the full list of works here



“I come back to the work of Sappho because with my background in illustration, I find it such an alluring challenge to try to visualise work that has survived and been passed down through the years despite being incomplete.

Sappho was an ancient Greek lyric poet from around 630 BC who was celebrated even in her own time as one of the greatest Greek lyric poets ever and the first known female writer in the European literary tradition. Though she was thought to have written around 10,000 lines of poetry, we only have documentation of roughly 650 lines. These lines remain either in fragments and scraps - one scrap attributed to her was found in the lining of a sarcophagus, or as quotations in the writing of others. Only one complete poem that has survived the tests of time…

…I find this transient nature of her work so captivating because it allows so much space for the personal to bleed in and gives both the translator (me) and the viewer a chance to build their own narratives from the symbols presented. I enjoy being part of a cannon of queer artists and creators who have found inspiration and representation in Sappho’s words”

One of the main ways that Matilda reframes Sappho’s poetry through a modern-day lens is through printmaking – specifically in the form of tetra pak etchings and drawings that translate the timelessness and intensity that make up the essence of her specific poetic practice.

“Tetra Pak has become an important part of my practice as I love using a printmaking medium that I don’t have to feel precious about and can be experimental in my approach. Using a material that can’t currently be recycled in the UK is important to me as it extends its life and allows me to create a reusable bank of plates whose imagery that can become a visual lexicon that relates to my storytelling.”

Lately, Matilda has also been increasingly working with textiles as a means of piecing together and working out a composition slowly, meditatively, and with intention. The nature of these fabric quilts as collections of scraps made even more precious because of their fragmented nature – yet another nod to the found words so characteristic of Sappho’s poetry.

Matilda Ellis is a Trainee Artist Educator with Bow Arts’ Learning Department, working collaboratively with schools and delivering engaging projects in a range of educational settings.

This is the seventh exhibition in our series of shows in the Nunnery Café, which showcase affordable works of art from Bow Arts artists. All works are for sale and those priced between £100 - £2500 are available to purchase using Own Art. This is a national scheme that allows buyers to spread the cost of purchasing an artwork over 10 monthly instalments, with the benefit of an interest-free loan. 

Find out more about our previous café exhibition artists here.