Approved: 16.08.2006

Helena Ben-Zenou

Artist, Lecturer / academic, Researcher

Approved: 16.08.2006

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

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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'.

CV & Education

Qualifications and training

2002 - MFA Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London

1992 - BA (Hons) Visual Art, University of Lancaster, Lancaster

Higher Education Teaching

2006 - 2011 - Course Director, BA(Hons) Fine Art, University of Nottingham

2007 - Visiting Artist / Professor, BFA and MFA Fine Art, Illinois State University

2006 - 2007 - Associate Lecturer, BA(Hons) Fine Art, University of Lincoln

Solo exhibitions

2010 - The Architecture of Pleasure, Blackpool & The Fylde University Gallery, Blackpool

2006 - Helena Ben-Zenou: Industrial Relations, Derby Museum & Art Gallery, Derby

2006 - Industrial Relations, Buxton Museum & Art Gallery, Derbyshire

2006 - Industrial Relations, Rolls-Royce LDC, Derby

2000 - Helena Ben-Zenou, part of Mappin Open Solo Shows, selected by Charles Esche & Paul Nesbitt, Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield

2000 - Other Peoples Palaces, Year of the Artist, Bancroft Library, London E2


2008 - Industrial Vacations, Blackpool Arts Department 2008-10, Blackpool

2007 - Visiting Artist, Illinois State University, USA

2005 - Vickers Art Award 2005/06, Derbyshire Community Foundation, Derby

2003 - Research Project in Printmaking/Media, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London

2000 - Year of the Artist Residency, Tower Hamlets , Tower Hamlets Central & Local History Library

1998 - ACME Fire Station Live/Work Residency Scheme, ACME Fire Station, London E14

1998 - Bridge 98 "Owergaeing", Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Aberdeenshire

Group exhibitions

2016 - Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery, "Now for Tomorrow II", with  Phyllida Barlow, Richard Billingham, Helen Chadwick, Permindar Kaur, Christina Mackie, Nick Mobbs, Yelena Popova, Sam Taylor-Johnson

2012 - Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (invited artist), Royal Academy of Art, London

2012 - Structure, Parndon Mill Gallery, Harlow

2010 - Short Shorts, BBC screen, Millennium Square, Leeds

2009 - Short Shorts (Video), 42 New Briggate Gallery, Leeds

2008 - Cantilever Left, I-MYU Projects, London

2007 - Group Exhibition, Kensington & Chelsea Town Hall , London

2007 - Group Exhibition, Sarah Myerscough Gallery, London

2007 - Group Exhibition (invited artist), Wirksworth Festival, Derbyshire

2006 - The Imposition, long-term exhibition of this commissioned painting, The Long Gallery, The Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Nottingham

2005 - Sarah Myerscough Fine Art, Art London, London

2004 - A13, The Wapping Project (An Architecture Foundation Exhibition), Exhibitors included Jock McFadyen, Iain Sinclair (writer), Tom de Paor (architect), Chris Petit (film maker/photographer), Anthony Gormley (sculptor), Susie Honeyman & Giles Perring (the Mekons), London E1

2004 - Patrick Heide Art Projects, Art Frankfurt, Frankfurt

2004 - The Tower Block - Vertical Architecture, Clifford Chance, artists exhibiting include Artists exhibiting included, David Hepher, Rachel Whiteread, Julian Opie, Sarah Morris, Richard Galpin , Canary Wharf, London E14

2002 - DLA Art Award, Sarah Myerscough Fine Art, selectors include writer & critic John McEwen and artist Basil Beattie, London

2002 - East International 2002, Norwich Gallery, selected by Lawrence Weiner & Jack Wendler, Norwich

2002 - Four Colleges Exhibition - (organised by the RA Schools), AT Kearney, Berkeley Square, London

2002 - Postgraduate Printmaking in London

2002, Clifford Chance, London

2001 - New Bloomsbury's, Scarlett McGuire Gallery, Bloomsbury, London

2000 - We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Poplar Baths, London E14, co-curator (with Laura Bruce) and exhibiting artist for this site-specific, fully funded, commission based exhibition, at the former Poplar Baths

1999 - NatWest Art Prize 1999, Lothbury Gallery, selectors included Alister Warman, Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, Callum Innes, London

1999 - The Land Beyond the Blue (video screening), The Approach (curated by Dave Beech & Laura Bruce), Bethnal Green, London E2

Competitions, prizes and awards

2008 - Residency Award, Blackpool Arts Dept (supported by Arts Council England - North West & Blackpool City Council) , Blackpool

2007 - Project Award, Juliet Gomperts Trust, London

2005 - Vickers Art Award 2005/06, Derbyshire Community Foundation, Derby

2002 - Emerging Artist Bursary, Woo Foundation, London

2001 - Duveen Travel Award, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London

2001 - AHRC Award, full bursary for MFA studies

2000 - Project Award, The National Lottery, through the Arts Council England

2000 - Project Award, Tower Hamlets Borough Council, London

2000 - Year of the Artist Award, Arts Council England, London

1999 - Natwest Art Prize 1999 (highly commended entry), Lothbury Gallery, London

1999 - Project Award, Arts Council England, London 

Public realm

2008 - ACEEM Outward Mission to SW China, various sites, Chongqing, SW China

Private commissions

2006 - Large-scale exterior mural design commission , Rolls-Royce , Derby

Public commissions

2013 - ACME 40th Anniversary Commission,, London

2006 - The Imposition (Prospect Room, Wollaton Hall, February 2006), Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Nottingham

2005 - New Drawings for Collection, Wirksworth Festival, Derbyshire


2009 - Participant in 'Method' - artist leadership development programme, Solar Associates, Cultural Leadership Programme, London

2004 - Photography Commission, General Public Agency, Tilbury, Essex

1999 - Co-curator (with Laura Bruce) of "We're Not in Kansas Anymore", Poplar Baths (a Wharf Watchers project), London E14


2010 - Blackpool Art Dept, Blackpool 

2009 - New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall 

2006 - Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Nottingham

2006 - Vickers Art Collection, Derbyshire Community Foundation, Derbyshire

2002 - AT Kearney, London

1991 - Collection, Brahm Gallery, Leeds

Artist talks

2010 - Visiting Artist, School of Design, University of Leeds

2009 - Lecture, Blackpool & The Fylde College, part of BADept residency

2009 - Open Seminar, Fylde Creatives, as part of BADept residency

2007 - Lecture, ILSTU Galleries, Illinois, USA

2007 - Lecture, School of Art, University of Lincoln

2005 - Art & Architecture, Privilege & Exclusion, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

2005 - North of Watford - Regional, Remote, Rural opportunities, Flyfishing for Artists series, organised by ArtQuest & Space Studios, Space Studios, London

2004 - The A13 and its Hidden Secrets, panel discussion with Iain Sinclair, Jock McFadyen and Rowan Moore, The Wapping Project , London

2002 - The work of artist Ilya Kabakov, Norwich Gallery, as part of East International 2002, Norwich


2013 - The Fire Station Project, ACME studios 

2012 - Royal Academy Summer Exhibition catalogue

2006 - Helena Ben-Zenou: Industrial Relations, Catalogue, with new writing by Ian McMillan and essay by Robert Clark, published by Derbyshire Community Foundation ISBN-13: 978-0955223105

2002 - DLA Art Award Catalogue, Sarah Myerscough Gallery, London

2002 - East International 2002, catalogue, with essays by Lawrence Weiner & Linda Morris, Norwich Gallery, published by Norwich Gallery, ISBN 10: 1 872482 61 9

2002 - Four Colleges Exhibition, AT Kearney, London

2001 - ACME Fire Station Residency Programme, 1997 - 2001

2000 - Helena Ben-Zenou (Mappin Open, Solo Show)

1999 - The NatWest Art Prize 1999, catalogue, with essay by Tim Marlow, The NatWest Group Art Collection, London, ISBN-10: 0 9530 716 7X

1998 - Owergaeing, catalogue, Bridge 98, Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Aberdeenshire, Published by Scottish Sculpture Workshop ISBN-10: 0 9528901 2 9