Helena Ben-Zenou

Helena Ben-Zenou

Artist, Lecturer / academic, Researcher

My practice investigates architecture, urban spaces, and the city's relationship to contemporary art practice.

Working across painting, photography, installation, video, sound and curation, works and projects explore the transitory and contradictory nature of cities, and address the physicality and social history of urban spaces. Ideas and works originate through visiting sites of architectural
and historical interest, taking photographs, filming, collecting sound, making notes, and walking - as an informed wandering.

Work in painting is generally large-scale on canvas and involves the use and application of industrial materials such as marble, limestone, brick and slate dusts and a variety of industrial paints - taking the subject matter direct to the canvas.

Between 1998 and 2005 my work concentrated on exploring areas of London, in particular the landscape along and around the A13, an arterial road that runs from Aldgate, East through Essex to Southend and Shoeburyness. Sprawling decaying industry, Docklands, huge programmes of construction, council estates, polluted nature, concrete, asphalt and the relentless flat bleakness of the road and its environs provides a wealth of material about cities, their entrances, exits, and their peripheries.

From the bottom looking upwards, to exclusive views from the heights - I am interested in the power in perspective, its illusory quality, its effect on the viewer, and its wider symbolism. Examining notions of progress, change, and dis-location, and discovering the lost forgotten and misplaced, works reflect a landscape in a continual synthetic flux.

From 2002-04 I undertook a number of walks and collaborative explorations with artist Jock McFadyen and writer Iain Sinclair exploring the A13 and its environs. The project culminated in the development of new works and the co-curation of the group exhibition 'A13', at the Wapping Project. This was funded and managed by the Architecture Foundation in 2004.

As part of the Vickers Art Award residency programme in 2005/06, I completed a new series of large-scale paintings and developed and extensive body of Polaroid images exploring the Industrial landscapes of Derbyshire. From the rural architecture of the Derbyshire quarries and mines, to major urban industrial (Rolls-Royce) sites in Derby, the large-scale paintings investigated the contrasts of the Derbyshire Industrial Landscape and aimed to raise questions about the changing landscapes of Britain. For this project I also undertook a short collaboration with poet, broadcaster and commentator Ian McMillan, whose resultant writing was published in the accompanying publication 'Helena Ben-Zenou - Industrial Relations'. This publication also included an essay by Robert Clark.

Since 2006 I have continued to explore landscape and architecture. This has enabled me to complete a number of significant projects in a range of locations from China to the USA. I am currently working on a painterly investigation of Blackpool researching, documenting and responding to 'The Architecture of Pleasure'.
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Location London
Activities Higher education, Practice-based research, Residencies, Workshops, Gallery education
Artforms / type of project Painting, Photography, Research
Tags contemporary painting, contemporary art, contemporary London art, contemporary british art, contemporary urban art