Zenobia (Zee) Southcombe is an artist, writer, and award-winning photographer living in coastal Otago, Aotearoa/New Zealand. She is passionate about the natural world, and the way humans and the environment interconnect. After moving to the rural south in 2019, Zenobia has found inspiration in the landscapes, flora, and fauna of her new backyard. Her current works in progress include a memoir on gardening, a painting collection themed around self & wildlife, and an upcoming photography exhibition at Dunedin Botanic Gardens Gallery.
I love exploring my own backyard, and discovering the fascinating flora & fauna that call it home, or finding interesting patterns, textures, and intimate scenes that might easily be overlooked. I venture a little further afield, seeking landscapes and scenic views in my local area. Aotearoa/New Zealand is home to unique wildlife, and I am passionate about sharing their stories – and their value – through my work.
What I describe as ‘the lo-fi end of self-publishing’, zines are my favourite form of publishing. My most popular series, the “Alert Level” lockdown zines, are a newsletter-style perzine that reflects on my experience of lockdown here in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The series has been acquired by several libraries/universities as part of their Covid-19 collections. I also have some mini-zines available from time to time.
After my first publication, What Stars Are Made Of (a wordless book) in 2014, I went on to publish a series of children’s fantasy novels starting with The Caretaker of Imagination, two of which were finalists in the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for “Best Youth Novel”. Alongside my fiction books I took on some non-fiction titles, and collaborated with youth to publish anthologies of poetry and short stories with young New Zealand writers. I am currently working on a photographic memoir through the seasons of my garden.
My paintings fall largely into two categories – deeply personal & symbolic work that reflects my inner workings, and vibrant & energetic paintings inspired by my expansive cottage garden. I currently work primarily with gouache on wood or paper, for its bold colours and low environmental footprint. I love painting small, with many of my works just 10x10cm or smaller, though I occasionally branch out into larger pieces. I also enjoy working with found materials in craft and collage projects.