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ABOUT

'The domestic setting is beautiful, still, and a touch awkward.' 
- Sacha Craddock (art critic, writer, curator)

Zena Blackwell is an award-winning figurative painter based in Cardiff, Wales, UK, working primarily in oil paint and exhibiting regularly.

 

She obtained her MFA at Central Saint Martins; BA at Wimbledon School of Art  and most recently completed the Turps Correspondence Course. A year after resuming her painting practice following a lengthy break, Zena won first prize at the Cardiff MADE Summer Open 2017, presenting a well received first solo show there the following year. She was also awarded 3rd prize at PS Mirabel’s open exhibition ‘PAINT’ (Manchester) in 2019.​

 

Her work is held in the National Library of Wales’ permanent collection and in many private collections around the World.
 

Zena founded the instagram blog Contemporary Cymru in 2017 and between 2003-2011, she co-founded a critically acclaimed live music event in London and also DJed nationally and internationally. ​


Artist Statement 

My paintings investigate various themes pertaining to childhood; be it my own experience of childhood and parenthood or general observations of my own two children.

 

Children can be strange and beautiful but also funny but melancholy. The presence of children in my work provides glimpses into imagination, fantasy, story-telling and sometimes surrealism, Identity and gender definitions.

 

Although recognisable faces often crop up in my work, I do not consider them portraits with the ‘characters' representing a universal portrayal of children/ childhood.

CV

Education
Turps Correspondence Course (2021-22)
MA Fine Art Central Saint Martins, London, UK
BA Fine Art (hons) Wimbledon College of Art, London, UK

Collections
National Library of Wales
Work in private collections in USA, France, Japan, Australia and UK. 

 

Awards and Grants
2022
Shortlisted for the BEEP Painting Prize 
2021

Shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021

Arts Council of Wales 'Create' Award of £2025 for Turps Correspondence Course 2021-22
2020
Arts Council of Wales £10,000 awarded to Contemporary Cymru for HOUSEHOLD NAME
Arts Council of England £3,800 awarded to Contemporary Cymru for HOUSEHOLD NAME 

2019
3rd prize PAINT at PS Mirabel, Manchester
2018
Arts Council of Wales Grant of £5000 towards the cost of 'Seen Not Heard'
2017
1st prize Cardiff MADE Summer Open

Exhibitions

UPCOMING & CURRENT:

New Wave - Spitalfields Studios, London 6.7 - 7.9.23
Human : Nature - Studio Cennen, Llandeilo 2.6 - 2.7.23

PAST:

SOLO SHOWS:
2022
A Delicate Balance : Solo show at Canfas, Cardigan
2018
Seen Not Heard: Solo Exhibition at Cardiff MADE, Cardiff

GROUP SHOWS:
2023
Latent Dreaming: AucArt x SeeFood Room at SeeFood Room, Hong Kong

Resilience - Annual Spring Show - Cardiff MADE 
 

2022

Art on a Postcard Auction, The Bomb Factory, Covent Garden, London
THE OTHER ART FAIR, Truman Brewery, London

A Generous Space, Hastings Contemporary, Hastings 

A Room of Her Own, Irving Contemporary, Oxford

BEEP Painting Prize 2022, Elysium Gallery, Swansea 

Collecting - exhibition of new acquisitions at The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth 

Otherworlds at Cardiff MADE, Cardiff 

A Women's Place is Everywhere, The Cello Factory, London

Draw : Wales, Wales Week in London
I contributed a drawing for a sketchbook feat. work by prominent Welsh artists inc. Shani Rhys James & Kevin Sinnott auctioned for Velindre 

Made in Roath open @g39, Cardiff 

The Sketchbook at Llantarnum Grange, Cwmbran 

Y Lle Celf, National Eisteddfod, Tregaron, Cardigan 

Body, Stitch, Soul at Studio Cennen, Llandeilo

A Celebration of Welsh Contemporary Painting at Red House, Merthyr Tydfil 
Ebb and Flow, Studio Cennen, Llandeilo

Catalyst: Painters from the Turps Banana Correspondence Course, Oriel Canfas, Cardiff 

The Hearth Gallery, Llandough Hospital

City Hospice Charity Auction - Roger Jones & Co, Cardiff 

Poems, Psalms & Song, Studio Cennen, Llandeilo

Cardiff MADE Winter Open
Celebration of Contemporary Welsh Painting, Pierhead Futures Gallery, Cardiff Bay (

2021

Truth : Myth : Dreams at Studio Cennen, Llandeilo 

Cardiff MADE Winter Exhibition at Cardiff MADE, Cardiff
Without Borders - Elysium Gallery (the exhibition traveled to Japan, Norway, USA, Venice, Canada, and back to Wales)
Household Name Virtual Exhibition 
Household Name: Group show curated by Contemporary Cymru
Elysium Gallery, Swansea  with Laura Ford, Cherry Pickles, Zoë Gingell, Fern Thomas, Adele Vye and Raji Salan
Cambium at Cardiff MADE

2020
Coming Up For Air - Oriel Canfas, Cardiff  (part of BEEP Biennial) 

Telling Tales  (Three person show with Lara Davies and Rhiannon Davies) - Bay Art, Cardiff 

Arcade Studio Exhibition at Arcade Campfa, Cardiff 

A View From The Edge : Contemporary Landscape in the Digital Age, Cardiff MADE

2019
Cardiff MADE Winter Show
AGORED19 at Galeri, Caernarfon
Present X Correct showcase by Contemporary Cymru at Corsica Studios, London
Y Lle Celf at The Eisteddfod, Llanrwst
PAINT at PS Mirabel, Manchester (awarded 3rd prize)
Empower Me! at g39, Cardiff
Arcade Studios at Bath Fringe Arts Festival, Bath
Tactile Bosch in Japan, Korea and Taiwan
The Mutterscream: Crepuscular Lush, Jacob’s Market, Cardiff
Viridis: Spring Show at Cardiff MADE

2018
Winter Show: Cardiff MADE
CSAD Auction at g39, Cardiff
Seen Not Heard: Solo Exhibition at Cardiff MADE, Cardiff
Made in Roath Open at g39, Cardiff
Y lle Celf, The Eisteddfod, Senedd, Cardiff
Filia (feminist conference in Manchester. Exhibition traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil)

2017
Ankle Biters at Made in Roath, Cardiff
MADE Summer Open Exhibition, Cardiff, curated by Zoe Gingell (won 1st Prize)

2016
‘Domestic Bliss’ at Made in Roath, Cardiff

2012
‘ArtLabBern’ Switzerland: My Beautiful Son project, Bern, Switzerland
Clit Rock’ My film Pleasure Max was shown at this regular anti-FGM event, London

2011
Central Saint Martins MA Degree show, London
New Pretenders’ Bargehouse, London (Interim MA degree show)

Pre-2010
Selected works at The Glass Bar, London
‘Slap & Tickle’ at The Yard Bar, London (curated)
Wimbledon Library group show

Open Studios
2019
Cardiff Open Studios
2016
Cardiff Contemporary Open Studios
Made in Roath Festival Open Studios

Press/Printed/Online/Books/Interviews
2021

Poetry Wales - 2020 #4 featured on the cover of the Summer 2021 issue
Axisweb - New Art Highlights
Axisweb - Five 2 Watch
Saatchi Art - The Color Catalogue (digital & printed copies distributed to 250K US collectors)
Photographed by Bernard Mitchell for the Wales Arts Archive
Obsessed With Art - Bathroom Art - ‘Fibre, Back, Plastic’ featured

2020
FAD - Preview of HOUSEHOLD NAME

Chapter Arts Newsletter - highlighting 6 artists taking part in #artistsupportpledge

2019
The London Reader
Axisweb - Highlights (December)
Together and Sunspell – interview and photos
Axisweb – one of five painters to watch (January)
Axisweb – Highlights (April)

2018
A-N – ‘Seen Not Heard’ included in Top 5 UK exhibitions of the week
Western Mail Newspaper - double page feature
Wales Arts Review – feature
Wales Arts Review – included in a list of 10 of the Best of Welsh Visual Arts 2018
Around Town Magazine ‘Cardiff People’
Galleries Magazine
Cardiff Students
Buzz Magazine
Cardiff Times review of Seen Not Heard
BBC Wales – Eisteddfod review mention.
‘Painting of the Day’ - Contemporary British Painting
Axisweb - Highlights
Saatchi Art – Curated collection
Cardiff Life Magazine
Radio Cardiff ‘Pitch Illustration Radio’ hour-long interview
2017
Cardiff Life Magazine
‘Under the Radar’ - Artslant global mailout
Lumin Journal
‘Painting of the Day’ Contemporary British Painting
2009
Flying Graphics, Monsa, Barcelona
2008
Fly By Night, Thames & Hudson, London

Historical
a-n Magazine Degree Show Special

Misc
2017-present day – Founded Contemporary Cymru
2010-2013: Curated the Art in the Bar programme at Corsica Studios
2011: Tour guide at the Hayward Gallery for Tracey Emin retrospective
2009-2012: – Assistant to Sacha Craddock
2007 – 2011: – Assistant to Frith Street Gallery Director, Jane Hamlyn
2005: Judge and award presenter at The London Short Film Festival, ICA, London
2000: Showcased recent work on the TV series ‘Young, Gifted & Broke’

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