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Cardiff artist’s first solo exhibition

Zena Blackwell explores the anxieties of motherhood in a new exhibition at Cardiff MADE

Cardiff-based artist Zena Blackwell, winner of the 2017 MADE Summer Art Prize opens a new exhibition at the Cardiff MADE gallery this Saturday.

In Zena’s first solo exhibition Seen Not Heard, her oil paintings explores what it means to be a mother, drawing inspiration from her own role as a parent.

Her paintings portray the innocence of childhood through the mother’s eye.

Yet this innocence is not romanticised. Zena’s paintings create a heightened reality in which the vulnerability of the child is at odds with a threatening adult world.

“I love the beautiful way in which they are completely unselfconscious,” said Zena.

“The experience of adulthood informs our interpretation of a scene. Something totally innocent can connote something sinister or malevolent. Sometimes this manifests quite unconsciously.”

Zena’s work delves into the uncanny through her bold contrast of bright colours and flattened textures with realistic forms to express the dreamlike world of the parent.

The anxiety and sleep deprivation go hand in hand with the joy and love which the role brings.

Images provided by Zena Blackwell

Gallery co-director and fellow artist Zoe Gingell said: “I was delighted because they’re amazing, powerful paintings.

“Zena’s work stood out for me as somebody who’s making work about the subject of parenthood, which is unusual in itself to see that represented in painting.

It’s not an area that’s not particularly shown and there’s a mass of work out there.”

Alongside the exhibition, Zena Blackwell will also talk in the MADE gallery on the 17 November, alongside fellow artists, academics and curators as part of the day-long symposium Maternal Attitude.

The symposium will explore how parent-artists make work, and their potential to transform the art world. Tickets are currently available from Eventbrite.


‘Seen Not Heard’ is open at the Cardiff MADE gallery from the 27 October until the 23 November.


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