Who are you and what is the first thing that you do when you get up in the morning?
My name is Roman Klonek. I was born in Katowice, Poland. Probably to no surprise, I need a coffee first thing.

After being in Poland you moved to Germany. How old were you and what was the transition like?
I was three and half years old, so there is not very much to remember. What I know is that I spoke Polish and that my parents decided to only speak German from that point on, so my Polish faded away.  But somehow, it still attracts me, in a way. When I go to Poland these days, I can clearly feel the effects of these early years. Not only in Poland, though: this counts for the whole East European Region. It’s a feeling of “familiar strangeness”, a paradox: I’m an alien but I feel home. A funny thing is that to this day, I’m still in love with the first cartoon characters I ever met, “Lolek and Bolek”. They’re the most famous cartoon characters in Poland.

“I don’t really like propaganda—or more precisely, I don’t like what it wants to tell me.”

You are based in Düsseldorf now. Can you tell us a little bit about the creative scene there?
We have some very good museums and art galleries, a famous academy and undoubtedly a huge art scene. I think the concentration of artists is comparable with Berlin. I only know a few of them but just in my circle of friends, most of them do something creative. 

How do you explain your work and what you do to a ten year old?
Generally, I love to let my mind flow and try to catch some of the pictures that appear—indistinct and in fragments. In a way, I want to make my thoughts visible. So I got myself a sketchbook as a “Catcher of thoughts”. When you use it every day and over a long period, a special world comes to light, step by step. It’s very individual and one day you can say you have invented a new, visual language—your style. Then you get a terrific tool to explain yourself. And this is a very nice feeling.

“Maybe 99% of my drawings are trash—but that’s fine for me.”

What was your process like in finding your own visual language?
The simple recipe is: Don’t stop drawing! When you do something over the years again and again, you’re turning into a pro. It happens automatically. The big challenge is to not lose the pleasure of doing it. It’s necessary that you like what you do. An affinity for “imperfect things” is also an advantage for me, because aspiration for perfection costs so much time and means that lots of ideas will never have the chance to come to life. I’m far from a perfect drawer, I just let my hand go. Maybe 99% of my drawings are trash—but that’s fine for me.

Your work has a lot of visual references to propaganda. What attracts you to it?
Actually, I don’t really like propaganda—or more precisely, I don’t like what it wants to tell me. Like advertising, it often overstates the benefits of a product but somehow, we are prone to this. A lot of people long for something big and beautiful. For greatness and magnificence. For me, it’s a nice game to pick up stereotypical modes of expression and revise them in another context. A lot of things are worth exposing to ridicule, or at least to turn into something strange.

You work almost exclusively with woodblock prints. Why did you choose this technique and what does it offer you that nothing else can?
I took a course in woodcut printing during my studies and realised quite quickly that I had found my medium. For me, it’s a good way to make a little more of a drawing. It’s kind of making something “official”.  What I especially like is the “ostensible appearance” of anachronism. It’s like it’s from an old story—it’s not quite contemporary. This is likely because the medium by itself is not totally contemporary.

You have to imagine: in the old days, woodcut printing was a common method of reproducing images and types. And all the little mistakes that come along with the imperfection of the wood were accepted. So one can say that in the old days, they did woodcut printing in spite of the mistakes—and today you do it because of the mistakes. For me, it turns into an artistic field of experimentation and the mistakes are responsible for the extra charm. They also somewhat guarantee authenticity. Every single one has its own little faults and therefore it’s always an individual – a unique piece.

You’ve shown with the Copenhagen’s Galerie Pi last year. How did this connection come about?
A Danish artist, Rasmus Rinhack, saw my work in a show. He liked it and recommended me to Merete Hertz form Galerie Pi. And she liked it, too; voila!
I had a very good time in Copenhagen. Extremely nice people. I was there in Springtime and sitting in the sun was already possible. I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

Looking ahead to 2018, what can we expect from you in the new year?
I got several shows in the works for 2018. I’ll work with the Joerg Heitsch Galerie in Munich, with the Urban Spree Gallery in Berlin and with Pretty Portal in Düsseldorf. Please keep updated through my website!

What do you want to learn in the new year?
What to learn? Well, I always want to expand my visual language. Try out new constellations of shapes, be more experimental. I want to step a bit deeper into the field of “abstraction”.

This article was initially published in BS29

Interview by Jeroen Smeets