Based in Cardiff, UK
Zena's works take you back to the stories of Alice in Wonderland and other childhood fantasies - her canvases depict children and the joys and mysteries of childhood, its domestic setting, and nostalgia
A: Please, tell us a bit more about yourself. What brought you into art?
Z: I live in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, but spent a large chunk of my life living in London. I went there to study Fine Art, first at Wimbledon School of Art, then at Central Saint Martins. I moved back to Wales a few years later after having two children as I wanted to be closer to family and to have more space. I think I can answer what brought me back into art, but how I got there in the first place is not something I can really answer as from a very young age, making art was just part of life for me. I painted and drew all the time on anything and everything.
However, it was after leaving art college with my BA in Fine Art and having to work full-time that I lost the momentum and drive. However, when I came back to Cardiff in 2016 with my two young kids and less time than ever, I found a two-week drawing challenge on line and realized that I had to make time to start making art again. And I could. And did.
A: What inspires you the most?
Z: Childhood inspires me the most. My work at the moment is quite obviously about childhood but when I look back to the work I created during my studies, there were so many common themes with my work now - childhood, motherhood, domesticity, etc.
A: Do you have any specific rituals while working (creating)?
Z: First and foremost, coffee, and lots of it! I like to have music on in the background - usually the radio, BBC 6 music or something.
A: What would you recommend to someone who's new to art (whether artist or just an admirer), what to begin with?
Z: Trust your gut instinct and don’t think you have to like something just because it’s supposed to be good or fashionable or whatever. Try not to feel intimidated in galleries if that’s where you’re going to to look at art. I would say almost everyone feels uncomfortable in a quiet, bright white cube gallery space… or maybe that’s just me!
A: Your top 3 adjectives related to art?
Z: Compulsive, addictive, cathartic.
A: The best angle to look at art is from ..?
Z: The best angle is from the eyes and heart of the viewer… no special actual physical angle is best - that’s up to the viewer’s eyes and heart.
A: The perfect phrase to start any conversation about art is: ...?
Z: "All art is plagiarism"?
A: Must-read books to help us talk about art (or do we even need them)?
Z: I don’t read a ton of art books if I’m honest (I find novels more inspiring - such as Huraki Murakami, TJ Klune, Orhan Pamuk) but I did like I Paint What I Want to See by Philip Guston which was recommended to me recently.
A: If you could change one thing in the art world - what would it be?
Z: For it to not be so dominated by men and not so cliquey. Sorry, that’s two!
A: Please, share your favorite quote (not necessarily related to art).
Z: When he was five, my son Elliot said to me ‘I can paint anything I like’. And I thought, hell, so can I!