It’s important to me in that click moment when you first see one of my painting that it's easy to look at and undemanding, the style has to be instantly engaging and recognisable, but then I like to add a little extra to think about, this can be humorous, or odd, but I feel the painting really works when it’s both. The struggle to get the balance right between odd and amusing is a constant battle, too odd and it’s uneasy and overwhelming, not odd enough and it lacks substance.
I like to paint animals or invented creatures in place of humans but still discuss human concerns, habits and stories. The use of creatures gives the viewer a certain distance, which allows us to laugh at our own foibles. It also helps us to think beyond a biased view of a given person and concentrate on their story or behaviour.
Whether it’s the big bull in ‘Roy’ or the bears in ‘Michael’ or the odd creatures in ‘Shave Green’, there’s an intimacy these little creatures unwittingly reveal to us as they go about their daily lives. Unawares and in private there’s no need for them to pretend or perform, they’re in their own world with all its trials and tribulations - and this is where I'd like the viewer to be, involved in a world that’s intimate, sometimes strange, sometimes magical but frequently echoes our own.
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.
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 the Japanese influence on Tove's work and her influence on my next hero, Hayao Miyazaki.
Hayao Miyazaki directed the films ‘Totoro’ and ‘Spirited Away.’ I love both of these, his imagination and secondary characters are beautiful, odd and spiritual.
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.
I was born Anna Witney in 1965 in a little cottage hospital in Lyndhurst right in the heart of the New Forest.
I was three months old when my parents emigrated on a £10 ticket from England to Australia. The Airplane was crowded with families all doing the same thing - on the search for an adventure or better way of life.
Once there my dad made a living by making and mending fences on farms in the out back of Eastern Australia.
We were there for four years until my parent’s moved back to the New Forest in the south of England.
I changed my name after many years of my Mum calling me Zennor. I gained this nickname after playing on my Granddads (Sven Berlin another Artist) 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 mum (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 Mum persuaded me to have an exhibition along side her and my grandad Sven. This turned out to be fantastic.
Mum 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, a new series to be out in the near future.
2018 is going to be fun, I'm making little sculptures of my characters from my paintings as well as having three shows planned.
I show my work in Bar's, Cafe's and Restaurants through out the South of England. I love people seeing my paintings and hearing them laugh. It's important to me for my work to be shown where people are, for them to see my work by chance and hopefully be delighted by them.
I hope you enjoy looking at them too.
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.