Zora Owen is an Essex-based artist whose interests lie at the intersections of art, science and activism. Rooted in drawing, her practice branches into multiple disciplines, where human and nonhuman subjects are approached with the same empathy. Her work, and ways of working, are informed by awareness of the Anthropocene/Capitalocene. Using reclaimed materials and foraged pigments, she taps into ancient traditions of mark-making with respect for the origins of colour and the rights of nature.
Experimenting with Victorian techniques of animation and illusion, her handmade optical toys craft dynamic moments that engage the viewer in co-creating their perception. She hones in on the sense of wonder, scientific curiosity, and thrall to natural phenomena, while subverting the exploitative ethos of the period in her use of materials–– eschewing destructive, disconnected modes of consumption in favour of radical relationship-building with sources and systems. Revisiting ancient methods to forage and prepare natural pigments, the intricacies of creating colour lead into many worlds: historical, chemical, ecological, and more.
Grounded in ethical and ecological concerns, empathy and expanded awareness is a through line. Convinced of artists’ responsibility to the world around them, she invokes ways of creating that are connected, compassionate and contributory. She practices portraiture as a form of connection both personally and politically– exploring the power of devoting attention to those often unseen.
One half of an identical twin pair, this formative experience underlies an intuitive understanding of interconnectedness and shared identity. Her practice considers both human connection and the concept of the “eco-self”, where ethical boundaries extend to the living planet, recognising ecocide as a shared crisis, and asking how art can not just imagine but actively participate in change.
A selection of Zora’s work can be found on Instagram.
See also: her twin, exploring similar themes through poetry and performance.