‘The couple is a couple because it has no Eden. We are exiles from the garden, we are condemned to invent it, to nurture our delirious flowers, living jewels we clip to adorn a throat. We are condemned to leave the garden behind: before us is the world.’ Words of the poet Octavio Paz
“From Botanical Illustrations to classical Still Life painting, this new series of works revises and recalibrates traditional genres in order to recast them in a more contemporary/personal light.
Like Rousseau’s paintings which say less about the jungle than about the anxieties of modern Paris, these paintings use the language of flora and fauna to depict our contemporary city life, playing around the notion of the indoors versus the outdoors, the wild versus the tamed.
I am interested in creating fantastic worlds filled with odd juxtapositions. Based on first-hand observation, plants and flowers are reworked and exaggerated so that the horticultural varieties can no longer be identified and verge instead on symbolism or surrealism. Blurring the reading, while revealing a certain amount of information and keeping much of it hidden, they draw the viewer in to linger upon the visual and go slowly.
As with all the different genres in my artistic practice, which are in constant dialogue with each other, these works are products of paper collage, chine colle, drawings, monotypes, and painting on canvas. Visual references are spread around like pages of an ongoing diary. Flowers and leaves are treated in layered images like stories based on tainted memories.
For me, the canvas is a thinking space, patterns can convey or relate to a certain cultural identity; written text can send a direct message or ask a question, imagery can be used as a never-ending narratives.”
Born in Lebanon, in 1974, Zena Assi lives and works between Beirut and London. She graduated with honors from l’Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts (ALBA).
Her work has won prizes including the Sunny Dupree Family Award for a woman Artist, 2020 Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy, London, 2020; the Rosemary & Co Award at the SWA show, London, 2018 and the Special Jury Prize of the XXIX, Autumn Salon, Sursock Museum, Beirut, 2009.
Assi has exhibited in solo as well as collective shows across Europe, the Middle East and the USA including- Alwane Gallery (Beirut Lebanon), Subtitled Apeal Royal College of Art (London UK), Artsawa Gallery (Dubai UAE), Zoom Art Fair (Miami USA), Espace Claude Lemand (Paris France), Cairo Biennale (Cairo Egypt), Katzen Arts Center of American University (Washington D.C. USA), Rebirth Beirut Exhibition Center (Beirut Lebanon), Albareh Gallery (Manama-Kingdom of Bahrein), CAP Contemporary Art Platform Gallery Space (Kuwait), Art13 & Art14 London Fair (London UK), Art Paris (Paris France), IWM Imperial War Museum (London UK), IMA Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris France), Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy (London UK) and the 57th Venice Art Biennale (Venice Italy). Her works are part of various public and private collections (Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts in Beirut; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah and Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris).
Zena Assi interview
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Tel: +971 4 398 0215