Sandra Zeenni is a sculptor who lives and works in Paris.
She grew up in Lebanon, a country with which she continues to maintain strong connections.
Her pieces feature in a number of public collections in France and Japan.
Completed and installed in 2023, Sandra Zeenni’s bronze sculpture Dao is part of the French Ministry of Culture’s program “1 immeuble, 1 oeuvre”. Measuring 1,80 m (5.9 ft) high, the sculpture is installed outdoors in Boulogne-Billancourt, France.
Her latest contributions include public exhibitions at the Palais Jacques Coeur in Bourges in 2022, the Musées de Bourges and Vierzon in 2020, the Hôtel Gouïn in Tours in 2019 to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, the Musée de Sarreguemines in 2015, and at the Musée National Adrien Dubouché in Limoges and the Villa Empain (Boghossian Foundation) in Brussels in 2014.
In 2022, the Liz O’Brien Gallery presented her sculptures at the Armory Salon Art + Design in New York. The Capazza Gallery first exhibited her bronze sculpture entitled Myn, at Antica Namur, in Belgium.
In 2020, as part of the “Georges Jeanclos – Auguste Rodin: Shape the Living” exhibition, hosted by the Galerie Capazza in partnership with the Musée Rodin, her sculptures were exhibited in Nançay and Azay-le-Rideau as well as at two museums.
In 2015, her works were represented by the Collection Gallery at the Collect International Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery in London, In 2016, the Capazza Gallery dedicated a solo exhibition of her work. In 2017 and 2018, the Liz O’Brien Gallery displayed her sculptures at the Armory Salon Art + Design in New York.
Sandra Zeenni’s latest sculptures touch upon the expressionist works of Rodin. They give rise to organic forms which are often de-eroticised, interacting and interlinking like mutant creatures generated by rhizomic growth. They toy with the element of surprise produced by the series of contradictory points of view. The discord between the forms (crevices, lumps, cavities ...) and her mastery of the material accentuates these anomalies and the fantastical nature of her works.
States of the body
Sandra Zeenni’s recent sculptures continue her dialogue with Rodin, which began several years ago. Zeenni’s work challenges the expressionist sculptor’s eroticization of the female body sensualised for the male gaze, something rampant in Camille Claudel’s lover's oeuvre along with most in art history.
For Sandra Zeenni, Germaine Richier is one of the artists who most brilliantly succeeded in this regard, freeing her sculptures of female bodies from the conventional and repetitive masculine lens. In this way, Germaine Richier’s figures from the 1940s and 1950s not only reflect the devastation of the immediate post-war period and the resilience of Nature that informs her vocabulary, but also opposition to patriarchal society and the roles it assigns.
Sandra Zeenni’s techniques and creative background, far from the usual path, have had a significant influence on her latest pieces. As with many of her predecessors, Sandra Zeenni began her artistic career in what is often referred to as the “applied arts” or “decorative art” choosing ceramics as her medium. In her own way, she used this medium to transform and redirect it for her own purposes. Her work evolved into sculpture, subverting the codes of the discipline. Some pieces, created without a plan, were prepared using small-scale models. She stopped glazing her white sculptures, using the bisqued surface to create a matte plaster-like appearance putting the pure forms to the test. She steered her black volumes towards sculptural bronzes, with brushwork based on techniques close to painting. Her work calls to the viewer, encouraging touch, for a multi-sensory experience.
Her sculptures evoke the orifices of a female body which may be destined for pleasure or vulnerable to assault and intrusion. Touching the pieces triggers a succession of surprises as viewers explore the pieces, joining as one unified body with the works instead of two interlaced, entwined independent bodies. Revealing joints and spinal cord, not mutant forms proliferating like rhizomes, over a bumpy surface hollowed and punctured by troubling deformities contrasts the sublime, white material.
Organic, abstract, human…. Sandra Zeenni’s collection entitled « Lage », encourages the viewer to consider works from a « one on one » standpoint. Emerging from these suggestive fragments are skulls, heads, backs, back bones; which are more or less distinguishable; diverted or interrupted, hips, bottoms, busts, and soft surfaces that are sensual and feminine.
Here, the orifices and cavities which are present in her sculptures are like mouths crying out, challenging the fleeting impression of fullness. « Without these gaps, these openings, there would be no breath; the form suffocates and myself with it ». Sandra Zeenni speaks here of turmoil.
Whether upright or horizontal, in relaxed poses or doubled up, these bodies seem to be on the verge of uncontrollable movement, possessed by inner silent, almost threatening forces. The inherent strength of Sandra Zeenni’s work stems from, and is enhanced by, the ambiguity denoted by the feeling of discomfort and confusion that emanate from masculine, androgynous and feminine angles intermingling as part of the same piece. A body that compels.
Her hybrid works seem to encapsulate layers of memory, as if an accident has altered the matter, dissuading the onlooker from a mere cursory assessment. For, neither words nor labels suffice to sum up these mutant creatures, as they appear to be more the product of a fictional world. These sculptures therefore incite another appraisal, one that is more tactile in the wake of their « body on body » representation, evoking the process of creation.
Amongst the white pieces, some are more ethereal; they are elevated to another status. They are less rugged and fill us with a feeling of well being and reassurance with their soft voluptuousness. Others, such as the works entitled « Figure » and « Dada » have been stripped of their veneer. They are raw and earthy in feel and yet the whiteness shines through.
The black pieces, on the other hand, are filled with tense energy set off by space and light; the exuberant enamelled paintbrush applications play with light and lend the sculptures a painterly feel. The black pieces become greyish brown, green, purple or mauve and alternate between appearing shiny or matte, depending on the angle from which they are viewed from and on the intensity of the exhibition light.
These sculptures challenge our beliefs in a reality that is straightforward, stable, or one based on external appearance.
Xavier de Rubercy
By Carole Andreani
Sandra Zeenni’s latest black and white ceramic sculptures give the illusion of being made out of marble or bronze. They allude to the human body, leaving no room for interpretation. Simultaneously figurative and abstract, they evoke troubling, twisted busts, the hint of a shoulder, the stretch of an elongated back, the curve of a belly, suddenly eroticised some slightly hidden orifice. They are both the whole and but a part. A black glazed sculpture reveals an intimate entanglement that can almost be heard to breathe. More than simple fragments of contemporary bodies, these sculptures follow a narrative within the history of art. Their sensitive, gentle curves make a nod to antique statuaries and Baroque painting with muscles dissected by the light. Originally working in ceramics and glaze, Sandra Zeenni became a sculptor “without ever having planned to do so, simply by following the path that opened up before her”. For many years, she has worked on abstraction of living things. “I come from Lebanon”, she states, “a country which continues to be governed by taboos. I intend to assert a feminine existence.” Along the way, she found her technique and her creative process. She searches for the form in her sculptures by holding the slab of clay tightly against her, working it at close quarters, body to body. The titles of her works, fragments of words (Coma, Lage Uz, Lage T, Zon) of which we know little, reflect them perfectly.
La Revue de la Céramique et du Verre / Nov–Dec 2017