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Artist Feature ://
Ramona Zoladek
Posted September 2018

Ramona Zoladek’s work recreates a sense of place that fuses with, and detaches from her links back to Poland. In much of her work Zoladek deliberately introduces fragility through her recipes that mix together cement, plaster, soil, seeds and sand, so that, although she is working with the materials of the construction industry, there is a vulnerability behind the façade where the qualities of strength and weakness play out in the physical nature of the pieces. The instability inherent in the work disrupts the architectural forms to create new configurations and often sets up a quiet duel between nature and urban construction, where it is the artist who determines who has the edge, but not the outcome. This re-enactment generates sculpture that is at once bold and tentative, layering political threads within an intensely personal and physical practice.

Q. When did you begin developing the unique aesthetic in your work?

It all began in my second year of university when I was still exploring what really excited me. I always was very curious to see how materials work together and would experiment with different combinations. Even as a child I mixed everything possible together but there were some barriers which always restricted me such as wastage and cost. Studying in art college in Poland, I learnt traditional sculpture. We were mainly working on sculpting small figurative pieces out of clay and would sometimes cast them with plaster. Only when I started art education in England did I really feel like I was allowed to experiment with anything I wanted and I found this really exciting. I started to use and mix building and organic materials. I started to mix beetroots with plaster and other colourful organic products to find out what the result would be and how permanent it would last. One day I poured wet plaster with other dried pieces of plaster as well as dried plants, soil, clay, cement and chick peas seeds into the inside of an empty plinth. I then left the plinth for a month and when I came back it was growing. It looked amazing. In a studio exciting things can happen on dull days and sometimes the ideas in your head are only a slice of what may be.  I connected two different approaches from two countries. I used plaster as well as plinths as basic equipment to display both of which I used to work with while in Poland and mixed this with food and other organic materials. I was playing on traditional and new as well as nature and architecture.

Untitled’, Rzeszow, Ramona Zoladek. Plaster, Photograph, Chick peas, 2018.

Q. As the living life forms in your work change the pieces over time, when do you consider a piece of work complete? And also what is your favourite part of this transition?

As a general rule I have finished my input to my work when I take the mould off or I pour the mixtures in but of course they then have their own life. The plants then may break through the plaster, expand, grow and dry. Plaster changes its humidity, shrinks and crumbles, changing colour and even temperature. It is complete when it goes through the whole life cycle. After that my work can still be exhibited but in my opinion it is at it's most exciting when the plants are growing and breaking the plaster. It is an exciting process but also it is a show of strength of the plants and that nothing is imperishable. Everything has its beginning and end.

Reversing/Fallow Site’, Newcastle, Ramona Zoladek. Plaster, cement, spray paint, expanding foam, soil, chick peas, 2015.

Q. Is having your work undermine the white cube gallery space integral to the concept? What would displaying these works outside this environment change?

I just love the contrast between organic and clean white space. It might feel unnatural to keep plants in a gallery but that is why I feel my work stands out more. My work could otherwise be overlooked or even assumed to be something produced by nature if it was kept outside. That would not be a bad thing but maybe would not achieve the level of attention from the viewer that it does in a gallery. It could be seen as a whole landscape. I want the viewer to look and see the old and broken from a different perspective. I want to open minds to different art and artists ideas and thoughts. And maybe also achieve empathy but also admiration for nature. I want to let the viewer make their own story about life and passing, new and old, temporary and permanent.  The gallery is a great space for contemplating and it provides a great space for individual pieces to exist on their own.

Q. In your opinion what are the key differences between the art world in Poland and in the UK? Which do you prefer?

In Poland there is a lot of influence on art from politics. Poland as a country has had a difficult past and the consequences remain present. Every citizen has something to say about the president and their leadership style. Politics fills the news every day. I am still amazed how some events can cause such divided opinions. I guess artists try to bring attention to that as well as history.

In England, the concerns that drive artists seem more diverse. Emerging artists get noticed quicker often after graduation. Also everything seems more intense in the sense that there is more funding for arts from private sponsors, public involvement, and generally more opportunities. I admire many Polish and English artists. In England I have had opportunities that may not have occurred in Poland, but the combined experience has worked for me, so I could not choose between them.

Terrain’, Rzeszow, Ramona Zoladek. Plaster, medium transferred photograph, 2017.

Q. Have there been any funding opportunities that have affected the amount of time you can spend on your practice?

When I was completing my degree I was given The Supanee Gazeley Prize and a few months later I received The Woon Prize. Both prizes helped me a lot. The Woon Prize included a year's studio space at Baltic 39 which was a great chance for me to see what life as a full time artist could look like. I worked for nearly a year towards a solo exhibition. It was amazing to be able to spend as much time as I wanted in the studio without the pressure of having another job as well. However, I definitely took it too seriously and put too much pressure on myself through over thinking and being a perfectionist. I now realise how important it is to find a balance between studio time and fun, socializing and potentially other jobs.

Q. Do you have any advice for sculptors or artists in general who make large, heavy work on how to maintain a practice?

I really should not give any advice on this as I struggle myself with time and space plus I am really chaotic. I often just gather lots of materials and then work from there. It would be so much easier if I could design my pieces and stick to one idea! However, everybody works in different ways so my advice may not be useful. I would say it is most important to be disciplined and organised because its not only big in your mind but also will be difficult physically so you need to stay strong!

Inner Wall’, Newcastle, Ramona Zoladek. Plaster, soil, expanding foam, birds food seeds, 2015.

Q. What tips would you have to an artist in getting their work in regular exhibitions?

Unfortunately I do not know any unusual tricks. I would suggest contacting galleries, applying for opportunities and keeping portfolios and your CV up to date. I think meeting other artists, curators and gallery owners is also very useful. The most important thing is to not give up as it is a competitive industry and everyone has different tastes, you are unlikely to get everything you go for!

Untitled’, Rzeszow, Ramona Zoladek. Plaster, paint, potted plant, wire basket, stainless steel, plastic spray bottle, 2018.

Q. Which art movement do you relate most to and why?

My work probably could be seen as influenced by post-minimalism, land art and maybe even arte povera.

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