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

Zena Blackwell's awarding-winning paintings and drawings investigate the chaos, humour, and beauty of childhood. 

Zena Blackwell is a painter based in Cardiff, Wales, UK. She obtained her Masters in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, London, and degree at Wimbledon School of Art, London. Returning to painting in 2016 following a break from the medium (during which time she explored sculpture, collage, performance and installation), she won first prize at the Cardiff MADE Summer Exhibition in 2017, presenting her first solo show consisting of over 30 paintings and drawings there the year after. The exhibition, ‘Seen Not Heard’, for which she was awarded a £5k production grant from the Arts Council of Wales, was included in a weekly list of the top 5 UK exhibitions by a-n (The Artists Information Company) and Wales Arts Review included it in a top 10 list of the best Welsh Visual Arts for 2018. In 2019 she won 3rd prize at ‘PAINT’, an open painting prize at PS Mirabel in Manchester. Zena was selected for the National Eisteddfod in 2018, 19 and 22 and has exhibited widely. Her work is held in the National Library of Wales’ permanent collection and in private collections around the World.

Zena was shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2021 and the BEEP Painting Prize in 2022.

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. ​


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

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


Awards and Grants
Shortlisted for the BEEP Painting Prize 

Shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021

Arts Council of Wales 'Create' Award of £2025 for Turps Correspondence Course 2021-22
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 

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



Cardiff MADE Winter Open (4.12 - 24.12.22 - Extended to 29.1.23)

Celebration of Contemporary Welsh Painting, Pierhead Futures Gallery, Cardiff Bay (15.12.22-9.2.23)


Solo Shows: 
A Delicate Balance : Solo show at Canfas, Cardigan
Seen Not Heard: Solo Exhibition at Cardiff MADE, Cardiff

Group Shows:


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


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

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

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

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)

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

‘Domestic Bliss’ at Made in Roath, Cardiff

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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
Cardiff Life Magazine
‘Under the Radar’ - Artslant global mailout
Lumin Journal
‘Painting of the Day’ Contemporary British Painting
Flying Graphics, Monsa, Barcelona
Fly By Night, Thames & Hudson, London

a-n Magazine Degree Show Special

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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