I hope in that click moment when you first glimpse one of my paintings that it's recognisable and instantly engaging and you get swept up in the story of the character regardless of their physical appearance.
Our lives are peppered with odd little moments which we humans do, some funny some more thought provoking, and I like to try and capture those moments to highlight the ridiculousness or the amusing quality we humans have.
Above all I love to make you laugh, not so much a belly laugh as a knowing laugh, one of recognition. Recognising that the thing some weird creature’s doing is the same thing you were doing last week, yesterday or just now. This can be amusing, stupid or actually a bit unsettling.
Hospitals have become the perfect place to show these paintings because most people walking down a hospital corridor are looking for some sort of distraction or escapism and if the paintings are absurd yet familiar, strange yet humorous, they can quickly transport you to a different place, if just for a while.
I was born Anna Witney in 1965 in Lyndhurst right in the heart of the New Forest.
I changed my name after many years of my mother calling me Zennor. I gained this nickname after playing on my Granddads typewriter at the age of five and completely miss spelling my name. It was cemented when we travelled down to St Ives for a family holiday. Zennor is the next village down from St Ives and in the village there's a myth about a mermaid who fell in love with a local fisherman, so when I’d finished playing on the beach and my long skirt was soaking wet, it was only natural for my mother (who had been born and brought up in St Ives in the 1940’s and 50’s) to call me Zennor.
Following what seemed to be a family trait, I left Hounsdown secondary school with low grade CSE's and an O’level in Art. Knowing I wasn’t stupid but recognising that the English system wasn’t helping me, my mum found out about a school in Switzerland called Ecole d' Humanité. I spent two summers running a Bed and Breakfast business in my dad’s house to raise enough money to pay for the school. (He meanwhile had to sleep in the 'Chicken House on Wheels' an old shepherds waggon in his field.)
I came back to the English school system with determination and a direction to go to art college.
Hill College Southampton: O' levels and Art A' Level to go to Art Collage.
Winchester Art Collage: Foundation.
West Surrey College of Art & Design: BA Hons degree.
South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education: MA.
It was however getting a job as a runner at Aardman Animations that changed my life forever. I felt for the very first time I was in a place where I really belonged. It was fantastically creative and inventive, and it wasn't long before I knew everyone in the company, all forty of them. I soon became a Model Maker and I worked on Nick Parks short film 'A Close Shave', and a pilot short 'Rex the Runt', I went on to do various adverts and later The Spice Girls pop promo 'Viva Forever'.
After my second son and encouragement from a close friend, I started painting both for myself and concept pictures for various feature films. One of those films was the Wallace and Gromit Feature Film 'Curse of the Wear Rabbit', I also made some little Rabbits in the model making dept, but the times had changed. It was six years since I had been making models and it was now a huge company employing over 200 people, and it was hard to feel special in the way we all did in the early days.
By 2014 I had a large body of my own work and my mother persuaded me to have an exhibition along side her and my grandfather. This turned out to be fantastic.
My mother and I went on to have a couple of shows in South West together:
2015 Broomhill Art Hotel Barnstable,
2016 Durlston Country Park Swanage.
2017 was a great year and I had a one man show at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol and made 26 work in progress Moomin Models for Moomin Valley.
2018 I've made little sculptures of my characters from my paintings.
2019 has been the beginning, I have finally found where I like to show my work, where it fits the best, it's a place where all ages, all ethnicities and all genders go. It's Hospitals. It's wonderful place to show art because here people need an environment thats not austere and clinical but one which provides escapism and a window to beyond the hospital walls.
2019 Durlston Country Park. This is the only non Hospital venue that I love to do. Again it's where a diverse range of people can 'Find Art'. Set on the south coast in a nature reserve, this gallery has to be the best location of any gallery anywhere in the world. Looking out to sea towards france at the right time of year you can see dolphins, puffins and art.
2019 - Southmead Hospital Bristol
2019 - 2022 Bath United Hospital
2021- 2023 The launch of the 'South West Hospital Tour' calling at:
Dorchester, Yeovil, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Taunton, Salisbury, and Western Super Mare.
Other Artists who have really inspired me include:
Paula Rego was a visiting 'painting lecturer' for a time at my Art College. Alas I never met her as I was in the printmaking dept, but her work has inspired me my whole life. I love her early 'dog series'. They were painted whilst her husband had MS and although I've heard they're not related to him or his illness, these paintings show such a pragmatic approach of caring for an innocent, or a loved one in need, it's hard to believe there's no influence of her life on these paintings. They're both beautifully painted and truly heartbreaking, and your sympathy for the dogs plight is really profound.
David Inshaw's work blew me away in my earlie 20's, like many of us I fell in love with his 'The Badminton Game'. On one level it has a simplicity of form and frivolity of girls playing badminton, yet on the other there is a brooding, and a disquiet radiating from the house and huge topiary trees. It was the first painting to make me see two things happening within one image, that the contrast isn't just light and shade or colours, but subject matter too. It was ground breaking for me.
Michael Sowa like Paula Rego paints narrative images with animals, his however are a mixture between Larson and Edward Hopper, they are funny and beautiful. The Art World have often belittled work with humour and yet here is a painter using light and colour to deliver exquisite images that make you laugh.
I was introduced to Tove's work late in life, but like all Moomin fans Tova's ideas resinate deeply and creatively with me. The tolerance, honesty, and bizarreness is so refreshingly deep and thoughtful. The odd little characters that surround the Moomin family and the world itself nestle gently somewhere within my own mind.
I can clearly see Tove's influence on the Japanese and particularly on my next hero, Hayao Miyazaki.
Hayao Miyazaki's ‘Totoro’ and ‘Spirited Away’ are wonderful films I love them both. His imagination, colour, lighting and characters allow these beautiful films an oddness which we don't really have in our modern western culture. They tap into a spiritual or perhaps I mean ancient Japanese culture and inter twined with modern Japanese life to highlight the avarice of today.
Shaun Tan is an Australian Artist and Novelist, his graphic novels Like 'The Arrival', 'The Red Tree' and 'The Lost Thing' are works of beauty, the simplicity of his stories rings a bell deep inside you like an ancient wind. You fall in love with his characters instantly because of their fantastic proportions and amazing shapes. 'The Lost Thing' is now a short film and well worth checking out.
To visit the Prada and see the paintings of Velazquez was a treat of a life time. The looseness yet precision of his brush strokes describes the atmosphere of four hundred years ago, and it's breath taking. The painted sitter holds a presents which allows us (the viewer) to be a part of the painting, you are the unpainted witness to the occasion, they are totally remarkable.
Edward Hopper, Vermeer, Honore Daumier, Henri Rousseau, Turner, Gainsborough, Whistler, Stubbs, Rembrandt, Grant Wood (American Gothic), Stanley Spencer, early Lucian Freud, O Winston Link (photographed Trains) Hieronymus Bosch, Toulouse Lautrec, Magritte, Marc Chagall, Monet.
Zennor Box by Edward Phelps April 2014
'The most convincing fantasy is always firmly based in reality. Lewis Carroll’s eccentric creatures are set against the foil of Alice’s well brought up common sense; Ratty and Mole are sensitively established in an England of dappled sunlight and murmuring water….
Zennor has taken this dictum to heart and spared no pains to “suspend our disbelief” as Coleridge put it. The gravel track along which the little creatures disport themselves in ‘By the Light of the Moon’ is one we all know from forest walks, and the trees and misty distances are equally familiar. So we are all the more ready to accept the incongruous dancers. Some images lead us into an unsustainable narrative. Do the diminutive holiday makers in ‘Picnic’ own the gargantuan car as the little set of steps suggests they do? How will they see over the steering wheel? The brain says don’t go there! But the fact that the brain has gone so far is a tribute to Zennor’s descriptive facility.
Some images strike a more plangent note. The boy in ‘Don’t Work too Hard’ is totally preoccupied by the cold light of the computer and the little renegade from reality is trying to conjure him back to a richer, more imaginative world; and we feel that the ill-assorted pilgrims ‘Looking for Nuts’ have a long way to go.
‘Fossil Fuel’ is another painting with disquieting overtones. Is the little hamster hoping to re-fuel at the very Edward Hopper pumps and to escape from a distant holocaust; or is the conflagration on the horizon an illusion born of storm and sunset? Strange as it may seem to say of a humorous painting, it is a dystopian, rather disturbing image.
Erase these bizarre creatures who have broken into and entered these carefully rendered rural worlds and we have conventional landscapes that display considerable representational skills; the landscapes of Duncan Grant come to mind. An indignant lady once accosted Turner at a Royal Academy private view and said, “Mr Turner, I’ve never seen a sunset like that.” The great man replied, “Ah Madam, but don’t you wish you had.” I’ve never before encountered anything like Zennor’s idiosyncratic, zany paintings but I have seen them now, and am very glad to have made their acquaintance'.
Edward Phelps April 2014
1965 and 8 months old
1969 In Australia
1969 In Australia
My Home in Lyndhurst UK
2011 Photo by John Harmsworth
2012 Madrid moments after seeing
Hieronymus Bosch for real.
A bit later.