The Empress - Leila Ataya Focus Event

7 Dec 2018 – 31 Jan 2019

Event times

Monday to Saturday
10.30am - 6.30pm

Closed on 24, 25 and 26 December and from 30 December to 2 January 2019.

Cost of entry


Dorothy Circus Gallery

England, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Marble Arch

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Focus Exhibition on Leila Ataya's brand new artworks at DCG London


Dorothy Circus Gallery London
proudly presents 

The Empress by Leila Ataya

Focus Exhibition


35 Connaught Street, W2 2AZ, London

Preview: Friday 7th December 2018 || 6 - 8.30 pm

Dorothy Circus Gallery is proud to present a new series of artworks by Pop Surrealist painter Leila Ataya. The Empress will be the first UK exhibition of the Russian-born, New Zealander artist, and will feature three new paintings and one drawing. 

The title of the exhibition The Empress takes inspiration from the nature of the souls that the artist portrays. Strong and wise beings, Ataya’s female souls have lived multiple lives in different eras, and they have been leaders, revolutionaries and queens.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, Ataya’s women in The Empress will reminds us of strong figures from the past, who have fought for their rights and been shut down and criticised for their emancipation: from the Blue Stocking Society - the English eighteenth-century informal organisation which sought to expand women’s social and educational rights - to strong independent state figures such as Marie Antoinette, Catherine The Great, and female warriors like Joan of Arc.

Combining influences from traditional Russian Art, Iconography and Decorative Art, Leila Ataya will present meticulously executed artworks, filled with strong symbolism and dominated by ethereal women and refined creatures. The characters subtly reflect each era they have lived in, revealing the burdens and the pleasures experienced during each of their journeys, while acquiring knowledge and power. The bright eyes of the female figures project their mood and sensibility, while the thin and long bodies detach them from earthly and human connections, gracefully capturing the fragility and the beauty of life.

The centrepiece of the show will be “Without An Eye”. The impenetrable darkness of the background is contrasted by a highly detailed portrait of a soul which has lived as a Celtic shaman, a queen, and a general, fighting in wars and experiencing the burden of burying her own children. Breaking down the boundaries of time and space, “Without An Eye” is a timeless representation of strong, independent and powerful female souls, who are loved and hated throughout their lives, encountering endless obstacles and experiencing multiple failures. However, a message of hope for a brighter future transpires through the painting. Although ‘broken’, the character stands straight, confidently looking at the viewer. The line ‘No Regrets’ tattooed on her chest, proudly conveys the strong personality of a woman who has fought, learned and fully lived her life, taking advantage of every lesson learned during her journey.

Using canvases as a storytelling medium, Leila Ataya looks at drawing the attention of the viewer to the surreal and stimulating an emotional response to the stories of her subjects. Through ambiguous narratives, the works on show will entice the visitor into the realm of strong travelling female souls. The Empress will also invite and encourage the viewer to reflect on and explore the stories of these female souls, and think of the women who, throughout history have stayed strong, endlessly battled for their rights and dreamed for a fairer and equal society. 


Leila Ataya was born in Moscow in 1979 and is now based in New Zealand where she moved with her family in 1996. In 2001, she graduated at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland with a BFA in the Discipline of Painting. In 2004, Leila Ataya founded Art School, an educational project that offers art classes to children and adults.

Deeply influenced by traditional Russian Art, Iconography and Decorative Art, Ataya’s art starts form the bond between the artist’s creativity and the viewer’s mind, producing playful realities made of strong symbols and dominated by ethereal women and refined creatures. Ataya’s female characters remind us of Modigliani’s distinctive style of illustrating the human figure, with sinuous contours and long shadows. 

Sometimes, Ataya’s figures are fascinating beings, luxurious princesses with feline traits, imprisoned at the bottom of a darkish abyss. Other times, they look like charming witches wearing lavish jewellery, and staring at the viewer to hypnotise and put a spell on them. Delicate butterflies and miniature animals play with tangling glided threads and shiny pearls in the middle of the dark. In this way, Ataya’s women explore the limits of darkness through sophisticated visions with a baroque style, where graceful figures emerge from a black background as mystic visions we cannot reach.

Leila Ataya has won numerous art awards and exhibited in a large number of solo and group shows in New Zealand, USA, Spain, Italy and Australia. She won the Telecom Art Awards in 2001 and the Nokia Art Wards the subsequent year. She also won the Popular Choice Award and People’s Choice award at The Morpeth Canada 2008 Art Awards.

Her works are privately collected in New Zealand, Australia, Russia, South Korea, the UK, and in Italy.

Art form Toggle


Alexandra Mazzanti

Exhibiting artists

Leila Ataya

Taking part


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