Interview in ARTEVIST [September 2017]

An Interview with Romana Londi in her Studio in Shoreditch, London

Italian-Irish artist Romana Londi and I met during the group exhibition Skinscapes curated by Tatiana Cheneviere and GuiliaVandelli at Unit 1 Gallery Workshop. We gave a talk with artist Camilla Emson on the importance of touch, and I visited her studio in preparation for it. Initially my interest lay in the involvement of her practice with technology and the way in which she plays with your senses. 

Romana studied Fine Art at Central St Martins before Fine Art and Theory of Art at the University of East London. Over the pastfew years, the artist has shown with Art Night in East London, Hooper Projects in LA, Freise Museum in Berlin  Follow her on Instagram

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?

My family often moved as a child so making things was not only a way to communicate with the rest of the children, but also a way to make myself feel at home. I didn't always enjoy making work and I didn’t recognise myself in most creative career paths, which compelled me to study political science before eventually applying to Central St Martins. In the end, I think painting decided for me, and my whole life was staged around it.

If you could work within a past art movement, which would it be?

 As a woman artist, I'm excited to be working in this time or best in the future.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

I paint, but there are no rules. Often my approach is to allow the work decide the process for itself. The resulting painting has been the inevitable outcome of a given logic or even an illogical set of actions. There is a performative side to my practice in re-enacting scenarios which inform the painting, or by creating circumstances under which the making or viewing of the work is effected by external factors. At present I am working with a paint that drastically changes in colour when exposed to sunlight. In this case painting at night or during winter evenings is to paint in the dark, but when I am painting in the day I need to consider how to position my own body out of respect of the painting and the sun. Sometimes my presence blocks the light and casts shadows on my painting so I can't see the whole image, but rather have an impression of what I am doing. The final work is also the result of this or the limits of the painting medium.

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?

A sensual eternity revealed. Mystery becomes familiar and vice versa. Beauty does not exist until it's felt and in the process of formulating a comparison it thus becomes art.

Is there a favourite photograph or painting, which inspires you?

I tend to not have pictures in my studio. Instead, I look at an image which interests me and put it away before I then come back toit. Back and forth; forth and back. Sometimes it's gestures or someone's voice or a space, which inspires the work. I work from memory, I savour memory and I'm jealous of it. I dust off my older memories very gently so as to not corrupt them with new memories.

How does your Italian-Irish heritage impact your work?

I think both nationalities are part of my work, and I also realise that I was born with two motherlands with distinctive and unparallelled lives during a time when there was no internet. It was a very interesting experience. A friend explained how sometimes, "one plus one is three." I've lived in London for ten years though.

What is your greatest indulgence in life?

Emojis ,-)

Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?

The first female artist I was introduced to was Artemisia Gentileschi. I particularly liked how direct and forceful her imagery was in comparison to other artists, and I loved Artemisia for her bravery and resilience as a person.

What materials are involved in your practice?

My recent paintings change colour with light. They are made with the same photochromic medium used in optical glasses, and they react to specific UV rays, which are present in sunlight and the paintings react to it with a chameleon-like transition.

What do you wish every child were taught?

I think tolerance towards themselves and others.

How does your artwork engage or interact with technology?

I think my work is informed by my personal experience with technology. My paintings, which change colour, started in LA while on a residency. I was buried in my studio struggling to work, and the sense of isolation was deepened by the fact that my friends and loved ones were not able to connect with me, because of the time difference between LA and Europe. I realised how relying on social media or Skype to stay connected with my ongoing life on the other side of the pond was ultimately alienating me from my present space in LA and therefore failing in its purpose to realign, connect or unwind through it. I started thinking about how technology and the fast-approaching era of virtual reality is shifting and shaping our experience of time. I am interested in the development of technology but especially in its failures. I think my practice emulates a lot of what is happening in the world. However, painting remains to me a sensual experience and its strength is within the mystery of how a sensual experience is formed. What informs it. How to control or regulate it. Ultimately accept it if you aim to own it.

Has social media had a positive impact on your career?

My career didn't exist before the invention of social media. I can't see the extension of its influence at this stage in my work.

What is your favourite art gallery in London and why?

Duchamp said he didn't believe in art, but he believed in artists. I don't believe in galleries, but I believe in exhibitions.

Do you prefer to work within a community or independently?

It depends on what I am working on. Painting is a very individual experience, but as my practice is growing there are a number of artists with whom I exchange ideas and with whom I hope to collaborate in the future.

Do you often make and receive studio visits?

Yes, living in London I'm lucky to be surrounded by interesting people and so whenever possible I like opening conversation and exchanging ideas. I find that with each visitor there is a new consciousness of the work. Equally, this is also why I can be protective at times and not let anyone visit. In the past I have worked silently on a body of work for years before showing it to anyone.

Do you have a routine or follow any rituals when you paint?

The rituals depend on which painting I am working on. The process can be playful or solemn and at times you might also need to be distant, distracted from it in order to do it. My assistant and I recently invented a time machine with which we can travel back to where the work was still going well or we explore the future. Often, we look for a a place to allocate the work, and park it there. Artis about ways of seeing, and I try to remember this at all times.

What advice can you give young artists following in your steps?

I think to trust your instinct is essential.

Do you love what you do? Why?

I do. I love the inherent presence or absence of the question ‘why' and the unfolding - possibly contradictory - answers.