Features - The Thin Air

Iwona Blasi – The Art of Life


When I lived in Poland, I never thought I could paint and I never thought I was an artist. I studied Social Science at Warsaw University, I was always doodling but never had the courage to do anything more than draw for myself. I have a big sister who thought me how to do art. She was my main inspiration in my early years as she was always painting, sketching, drawing, preparing her portfolio for art college… but she stopped painting after she wasn’t offered a place. It was a true heartbreak.

My parents are very pragmatic, I don’t remember them listening to music, appreciating art, having many interests. I felt loved by my parents but never felt like I could be myself at home. I was troubled when my younger brother died when I was 16. I had to leave home. I had to run away so I ran to Warsaw to study when I turned 18 and then I ran even further to Ireland to learn English, earn some money, have fun. It was love at first sight. Ireland and Irish People. I felt at home and I felt liberated enough to try to blossom in other ways. I had a boyfriend at the time, Chris Morrin aka Robotnik (today, he lives in Berlin and is an artist himself) who encouraged me to buy my first oil paint set, canvas, create and then exhibit. Even sell.

It was 2007 when I started selling my paintings. Can you believe it? I felt like I had woken up from a very long dream to finally be an artist. People wanted to have my pieces on their walls. They paid money for my ART. Wow. 2009 – I sold a painting for €650. My artwork was commissioned by different companies. Together with my roommate – who is an amazing photographer, Magda Nowacka – we started organising art and music events. First – Nouveau Vadge, a three-day Female Art Festival in June 2009. Later Zero Gravity Art Show in December 2009 in La Catedral Studios. The events were a great success and I was on the top of the world.

So in 2010 I got married. Together with my husband Zach, we approached the guys from Bodytonic (Beatyard) and started running art and music events in The Twisted Pepper called Flashlight. Over 3 years we’ve had 13 events, one in Bundoran (big thanks to Mary and Killian from TurfnSurf Bundoran) and during that time have exhibited some amazing new Irish, Polish and international artists and photographers, and cool emerging bands, such as: Fabio Grassi, Lukasz Kaniecki, MrsRedHead, Zaneta Witkowska,  Christina Soñadora Alegre, Agata Starszewska, Gera, Cecile Chemin, Dorota Konczewska, Sandra Schoene, LaLu Art, SingnoString, Emma Jewellery, Jane Cummins, Sandro Torres, Pajaritas Collection, Brian Connolly, Danny Groenland, Osito ft. Jess Keith, Barry Hawke, Gorgeous Colours, Olivier Longuet, Katarzyna Wojcikowska, Tara McGuinness, Harry Walsh Foreman, Alan Moore, Amorio Designs, Selena Mowat, Cristina Castillo Rodríguez, Capulet & Montague and many many more.

We would have loved to continue with Flashlight but other priorities took over: Two gorgeous boys, Ollie and Miles, were born in 2012 and 2014, which slowed me down for good few years artistically but gave me a completely new meaning to life and the process, and taught me so much about the world, caring and myself since they joined us. And I know that once they find their own creativity – we will be able to do some amazing things together.

How do I find Ireland as an artist? Ireland supported me to open up enough to myself to be openly artistic to others. But not in any way pretentious or fake. I was accepted the way I was, I didn’t need to behave like an artist to be one. Ireland taught me to finally believe in myself and not be afraid to paint. Ireland gave me so many incredible opportunities. Both, personally and professionally. And Poland? Poland is tough. If you have no strong support at home and around you it is hard to believe in who you are and who you could be if you only had the courage. I found the opposite in Ireland. I found an incredible support and word of encouragement from strangers, from those who didn’t have to make any effort. I think it is so important.

There are things I would change of course, I think there is so much more that could be done from the perspective of social justice, from the perspective of those who cannot afford to have a place called home, from the perspective of women who should have a say about their bodily autonomy and have the same rights and pay that men have, from the perspective of those who suffer physically and/or mentally and should have a free access to appropriate health services…

There is so much more that could be done… but also – a lot has happened already. And I do embrace it all, what is here available already that is not available in other countries. It all makes me feel safe and content. And I am proud that my children have Irish passports, and I have a strong hope and belief that they will have an opportunity to blossom, to become who they truly want to be. Without limitations. Without prejudices. Iwona Blasi 

is the co-editor / photo editor. She also contributes photos and illustrations to The Thin Air print magazine.