Born in Bulgaria, Zheni Warner first came to England in her early 20's. She studied Fine Art Painting at Norwich School of Art with Ed Middleditch and Derrick Greaves and later taught life drawing at Norwich School of Art.
She has exhibited throughout the UK, including the Royal Academy and the Barbican Centre in London and the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts; in Rouen and Carcassonne in France and the National Gallery in Sofia. Her paintings are in private collections in Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Hong Kong and Australia and in public collections in Bulgaria and the UK.
Zheni Warner is the daughter of the well known Bulgarian artist Violeta Maslarova, widely accepted as the most painterly of Bulgarian artists, and like her she is known for her exuberant use of colour and subtle approach to surfaces and the rhythm of the painting. Critics have variously described her paintings as 'having the colours of Rubens and the rhythms of Bartok' and being like 'aqueous jewels'.
Her territory is depth, form, movement, light and colour, particularly colour. The system she uses is her own heightened vision, carefully subsumed within a willingness to experiment with technique and form, most recently incorporating different light sources within her paintings. There is no underlying system, no ideological message, no attempt to tell a story. To misquote Wordsworth they are 'colours recollected in tranquillity'.
What remains is a form of poetic abstraction, the magic of allusion and visual alliteration. The titles of the paintings, usually quotations from the poet she is reading at the time, are not meant to be taken literally. They are guides to the reading of the visual text, a hint at a state of mind which may aid the response rather than determining the interpretation of the image. What they do instead is to indicate the sweep and rhythm of the paint on the canvas, its odd interruptions and exuberant spurts. As a result even the most contemplative of Zheni's paintings has a verve and excitement which reflects the artist’s own vivacity and joie de vivre.
Zheni has also recently turned her hand to book illustration. For more information listen here.
Zheni's 'signature' is always apparent in her approach to the paint surface, more so than any crude writing in the bottom right hand corner could be. The most obvious sign is the exuberant use of colour. A feeling that a joyful genie has danced off the palette and is celebrating some wonderful event. That is not to say that she is limited to a bright spectrum but that even darker colours are allowed their full value and are not relegated to subservient roles. Throughout her career we can watch as she experiments with almost impressionistic juxtapositions whilst at the same time incorporating large areas that correspond more closely with colour field painting.
It is not Zheni's nature to allow herself to be restricted by a single approach for long. A return to simplicity might be expected but, defying these expectations, Zheni set off in two directions at once. The first was to explode across the whole canvas again, setting free great swathes of colour, employing both a free form approach in some areas and a block system in others. But why limit the blocks of colour to simple paint? Let the light shine in! Which was her simultaneous approach. Tentatively at first, in quite restricted areas, she introduced lights into the paintings. Neon on the surface was tried but rejected in favour of an integrated surface lit from behind and later the incorporation of illuminated wire. She is currently investigating the incorporation of fibre optics into her paintings.