ART: Zena Blackwell

Zena Blackwell is a Cardiff-based artist and mother of two. She lived in London for 19 years before returning home to Cardiff two years ago. Whilst in London, she co-founded and co-promoted the critically acclaimed live music and party night Club Motherfucker and DJ’d around the world. She is returning to painting and drawing after experimenting with other disciplines on her BA and MA in fine art, and more of her work (warts and all) can be found at

Zena has also been selected for the MADE Summer Art Prize exhibition running from the 9th August – 9th September. Private view on the 27th July.

My main source of inspiration over the last year (I returned to painting and drawing in 2016 after a very long hiatus) has been my children/the home/family life. I have two kids and only have studio time for a couple of hours, three times a week, so try to make the most of what little spare time I have! 

I am in love with the beauty and patterns of Victorian and Edwardian floor tiles. The process of drawing these into my pictures is quite a challenge as I generally like to work spontaneously and rapidly, and of course drawing the floor tiles is anything but. However, I then have a ‘blank’ room in which to work quickly over the top. The first painting started out as a ‘self-portrait’ with just the heart, reproductive organs and plants (plants have become symbolic of the home/family/fertility/growth for me. You know, all the obvious things) but then a child entered the composition and it became a much more balanced image. My paintings grow organically rather than me having a set plan for what they are going to look like before I start. 

Zena Blackwell 1.jpg

The pig in the second painting represents female fertility/motherhood/how I feel sometimes. This painting was chosen by Contemporary British Painting for their painting of the day series. With regards to the third painting, I have thousands of pictures (literally) of my children and constantly utilise these as source material. I have been trying to paint quick, loose paintings based on these photos in the hope of capturing an essence of spontaneity, like the way a phone camera does. I have been thinking a lot lately about the way in which children are completely natural and not at all self-conscious, but also how they are feral and can be quite dark in their actions – sometimes accidentally! (such as the toy pirate gun pictured here!)  

Zena Blackwell 2.jpg

Zena Blackwell 3.jpg