It is an honour to have Roma Piotrowska on the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize Judging panel. Now in its second year, The Jackson’s Open Painting Prize exists to recognise and appreciate original, 2-dimensional fine artworks in any painting or drawing media.
Roma Piotrowska works as an exhibition manager at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. She also works as an independent curator, project manager and writer. She worked on the development of Iraq Pavilions at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and 2015; and is the curatorial assistant of its upcoming edition at the 56th International Venice Biennale Art Exhibition. Previous roles have included working as a Curatorial Assistant for the 4th Guangzhou Triennial (2012, China). Her research interests focus on archives, memory, identity, politics and economy in art.
Lisa: When did you first discover your love of art?
Roma: I have always been interested in art. In my teenage years, I was interested in art of the 20th century, especially experiments of the 1960s, early video art, body art and land art. Works by Nam June Paik, The Vienna Action Group and early Marina Abramović triggered my imagination. I wanted to be part of these exciting, challenging and rebellious things. I quickly realised that I would prefer working with art as a facilitator rather than an artist. That’s why I decided to study art history. I learned a lot about art from historic periods but I was most excited about contemporary art, so I started volunteering at the Wyspa Institute of Art, a contemporary art gallery on the grounds of the former shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. It was a very experimental and well-recognised gallery, nationally and internationally. Three years spent there were very formative for me and I felt that I was part of something important artistically and politically.
Lisa: What does your role at Ikon involve?
Roma: I am an Exhibition Manager at Ikon. It means that I am responsible for organising exhibitions. I mostly deal with arranging loans, transport of artworks, production of catalogues and management of exhibition budgets. I also look after artists when they visit the gallery. Sometimes my role can also involve courier and research trips.
Lisa: What pieces of artwork have you most enjoyed working with last year?
Roma: I had the pleasure of working with several amazing artists last year, including Sara Barker, Zilvinas Kempinas, Kan Xuan and Roger Hiorns. My highlight of the year was Dan Flavin’s exhibition of light sculptures. He was such an important and iconic artist. I studied his works at university and they made a big impression on me. Working on his exhibition at Ikon gave me unforgettable first-hand access to his works and an opportunity to meet Flavin’s last technician Steve Morse. Steve worked with Flavin for several years and has lots of stories to share about the artist and his way of working. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of 2016.
Lisa: What projects do you have to look forward to in 2017?
Roma: Ikon’s programme is very exciting in 2017. We will be exhibiting several excellent artists including Oliver Beer, Jean Painlevé, Sheela Gowda, Sofia Hultén and Käthe Kollwitz among others. The show I am the most looking forward to is of work by Thomas Bock (1790 – 1855). Bock was born in Birmingham and worked here as an engraver and miniature painter until 1823 when he was convicted of attempted abortion and sentenced to 14 years of transportation to Australia. He was pressed into service as an artist, with an output ranging from designs for banknotes to portraits of colonial worthies. His series of portraits of the last full-blooded generation of Tasmanian aborigines is his most significant work. He was one of the most important artists working in Australia during the colonial years. The exhibition will bring Bock back to his native city, showing his work here for the first time.
Lisa: What will you be looking for in the work submitted to the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize?
Roma: I will be looking for interesting ideas and a form of artwork that has relevance to this. I think art should change our way of thinking, challenge us and make us reflect on things we normally wouldn’t think about. Art shouldn’t exist in isolation from the everyday world but engage and comment on it. Art is very subjective, so I will be ‘judging’ based on intuition and personal taste.
Lisa: What is your creative new year’s resolution?
Roma: My creative new year’s resolution is to read at least 12 books related to art (but not connected directly to my work at Ikon) in 2017. Among the books on my list are those which have been ‘waiting’ on my bookshelf for years: ‘The Politics of Aesthetics’ by Jacques Rancière, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ by Walter Benjamin, ‘Art of the Deal’ by Noah Horowitz and biography of Alina Szapocznikow.
Header Image: Installation view, Dan Flavin, untitled (to Don Judd, colorist) 1-5, 1987, Ikon Gallery; courtesy of Ikon and David Zwirner, New York/London