top of page

'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 both nationally and internationally. 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 very 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 and has been shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Show and BEEP Painting Prize.​ Her work is held in the permanent collection of the National Library of Wales and in many private collections globally. 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. ​

Zena is represented on AucArt- the leading platform to discover & collect emerging art directly from the studio. Works available exclusively to AucArt can be found here.

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 and melancholy. The presence of children in my work provides glimpses into imagination, fantasy, story-telling and sometimes surrealism, Identity and gender definitions.



Turps Correspondence Course 
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



Rejects (celebration of some of the incredible artworks that have been overlooked by the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition), Stokey Pop Up, London

5.8 - Y Lle Celf, Eisteddfod, Rhondda Cynon Taf 

23.8 - 28.9 Primal : Tribal : Beats, Studio Cennen, Llandeilo 



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


Made in Roath Open at g39, Cardiff

Latent Dreaming: AucArt x SeeFood Room at SeeFood Room, Hong Kong

Through the Looking Glass - Aucart Group Show, Fitzrovia Gallery, London

New Wave - Spitalfields Studios, London

SOTA Marketplace : Accessible Art Fair, The Lab, London 

Resilience - Annual Spring Show - Cardiff MADE 

Human : Nature - Studio Cennen, Llandeilo 

​Best of the Solo Art Prize winners exhibition, Cardiff MADE 


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 (


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

(for recent press coverage, please go to Press tab) 


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’

bottom of page