Iwona inspired us with creative use of stories in her art works.
Most of all, while making our choice, we took into consideration Iwona's experience in a participatory art practise.
She has gained this experience in the following way:
- as a visual artist working in the post shipyard area: her story collecting and telling focused on the retired or made reduntant shipyard workers (male), her activities empowered those people by giving them voice, bringing them back to the collective memory of Gdansk
- as a curator/educator at Sopot Museum the social context are Sopot residents past and present - by collecting items and stories connected to them the museum develops very close bonds with their audiences and strendthens its local identity
Iwona Zajac's works carry an emotional load and stem from the human experience. She pays attention to the location of a project – she starts with collecting detailed information and meets with the people to whom it will be directly or indirectly related. To avoid intrusive interventions, she develops strong relationships with people, among others by inviting them to contribute to her artwork - and most of all she listens to their stories. Her practice carries respect for hard labour, which is reflected in one the media of her self-expression – murals require a lot of time and, at the same time, enormous care and attention - the same can be also said about the embroidery.
Her artwork "Patience” is a glorification of everyday, hard and routine work. This is how it was described on the occassion of the exhibition within the ART LINE project in Sweden: "For two months her canvases will be displayed at the Wachtmeister Palace, commonly known as ”Grevagården”.They will be exposed to the sun, wind, weather conditions, they will keep on changing, destructing just like Gdansk’s Shipyard and fading away like an´old embroidery. The canvases will change, but will not vanish, saved by millions of workers and women who carry on with their work."
Iwona also uses digital tools. She says: “I’ve been approached by people who asked for the mural-related materials to be publicly accessible. The result was a www.stoczniaweterze.com website in both Polish and English. It contains transcripts, recorded testimonies of the workers as well as a photographic documentation of the „Shipyard” mural and a free digital „Shipyard”catalogue. This way I’d like to preserve a part of history of our city and of the people that live in it.”
Another professional passion of Iwona is education. "Education is my passion, and education accompanies me from the very beginning of my work. For many years I have been painting on the murals and sometimes I was talking about feelings and people close to me." Here you can read on her very emotional workshop with the children on Sadness. (LINK FB)
We, as the River//Cities Platform Foundation, got to know Iwona Zajac better thaks to our involvement as a Strategic Partner in the Creative Europe project "Memory of Water". In this project Iwona as the Polish artist reflects on the built and social heritage of Gdansk Shipyard - the venue she is so strongly attached to - on both personal and professional levels.
Throughout the current I_Improve project we look up to Iwona as an inspiration both on her past but also present activities.
Related articles about Iwona's work and projects: