Zena el Khalil

Zena El Khalil uses a very personal visual language, marked by disillusion, irony and romance. Her universe illustrates the madness and contrasts of a city like Beirut, where war is always latent and where bombs punctuate people’s existence.

Her large scale painting or installation compositions bring together a whole set of war memorabilia, objects and iconographies from the seventies to the present days. There, Zena juxtaposes large pink fabrics where plastic tanks and Kalashnikovs decorated with spangles are entangled within numerous cheap artefacts. They reflect the “other” obsessions which haunt young Lebanese women living under threat; the search for a husband, plastic surgery, pop stars, etc. These alternative concerns are strongly recommended for their powerful sedative power.

Zena El Khalil was born in London in 1976. She spent her childhood in Nigeria and returned to England as a teenager. She graduated in graphic design from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon and obtained a Master in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts of New York in 2002. In 2006, she wrote a daily blog (beirutupdate.blogspot.com) during the thirty-three days of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. At the time, Zena reported there the impact it had on her and her friends and family. These “posts” were quickly quoted and published by medias such as CNN, BBC, the Guardian, Der Spiegel Online, the Nation and Counterpunch and Electronic Intifada.

Her work has been shown as part of group exhibitions in the United States, Europe, Africa, Australia as well as the Middle East and in solo shows in London, Munich and Beirut. In 2008 she published a biography entitled ‘Beirut I Love You’. There, she primarily explored her relationship with the Lebanese capital where she currently lives and works.