Jeni Snell is a British London-based multi-disciplinary visual artist. Jeni (born 1972) uses drawing, photography, painting, sculpture, installation and digital art processes to explore the impact that our early environment has upon the formation of personal identity. Similar to Belgian Artist Luc Tuymans where World War 11 is a recurring theme used to explore people’s relationships with history, Jeni’s 2 & 3D work, uses her early experience of attending a school built on top of a redundant WW11 German gun battery - which brought the opposing dynamics of ‘childhood innocence’ and ‘architecture of war’ together within the playground - as both the catalyst for becoming an Artist, and the model for the coexistence of the formal and conceptual oppositions within her work.
Jeni, who identifies as Queer, creates artworks that celebrate diversity, personal empowerment, and equality by using allegory and metaphor to undermine oppression and control mechanisms. Bunkers or projectile weaponry – both being symbols of soldiery - are playfully combined within a mocking narrative of resistance with the innocent, seemingly-inconsequential, or banal; such as oversized advertise hoarding models of ice-creams and ice-lollies, or saccharinely sweet kitsch and camp ceramic ornaments - everyday objects, used in a similar way that American Artist Jeff Koons re-contextualised proletarian luxury (thus playing with the distinction between low and high art).
Jeni was born in Guernsey, the second largest of the Channel Isles, and the only British territory to be occupied by Nazi Germany during WW11 - resulting in the Islands being heavily fortified. Following the end of the war in 1945 these monumental Brutalist installations were quickly de-militarised resulting in a scarred landscape. In the 1970’s one such site was utilised as foundations for La Houguette Primary School which Jeni attended from age 5 to 12. It is clear that the physical contact achieved from playing in and amongst these redundant forts developed an emotional connection with form and material, so it’s hardly surprising that Jeni first and foremost identifies with being a sculptor and states her 2D work of painting and digital art is executed with 3D considerations.
Paying homage to Guernsey’s German Occupation heritage, Jeni often works with cast-concrete methodology to create her sculptures, such as in her new series of ‘Brutalist Ice-creams’. Adopting the make-do-and-mend creative resourcefulness of Channel-Islanders under Occupation, Jeni combines found discarded objects collected from her daily walks in the city with her made objects (also often made using found objects such as food packaging as moulds). Re-purposing and re-cycling has developed from her life-choices into her arts practice and is an ecological statement against human greed and our throw-away society.
Jeni regards her three most memorable art achievements to date as gaining the Central Saint Martins 2008 ‘Artist and Collectors Bursary’ (whilst undertaking her MA in Fine Art with Art Theory) which is awarded to one student from each of the six Universities of the Arts London, spearheaded by Kay Saatchi. Jeni spent the whole award of £3,000.00 on making an audience-interactive installation, ‘FORTRESS’, an inflatable bunker which consolidated her childhood experience and contributed to the debate of ‘play as a political gesture’. ‘FORTRESS’ was included in ANTICIPATION – An exhibition of London’s Best Emerging Artists in 2008. The show was the culmination of a years’ curatorial work by Kay Saatchi and Catriona Warren, who visited 250 studios and graduate art shows choosing 21 artists from Camberwell, CSM, Chelsea, Goldsmiths, City and Guilds, London Collage of Communication, Royal Academy Schools, Royal Collage of Art and Sculpture, Slade and Wimbledon.