Romina Ortega Mella

Romina Ortega is a visual artist hailing from Chile who now calls Tāmaki Makaurau home. Her arts practice encompasses woodcut, silk-screen, illustration, tattoo, and mural art which she uses to explore highly political themes relating to woman’s rights, gender diversity and human rights. Much of her work is a protest against male control of female bodies and sexuality. 

While studying visual arts at the University of Concepción, Chile, Romina became intrigued by printmaking as an anti-elitist form of self-expression that allowed for the possibility to communicate directly to people and share her art through the power of reproduction. She was impressed how students at her university would use printmaking to protest against the system, screen-printing posters that would then be wheat pasted across the city walls at night. 

During her final year at university, Romina received a scholarship to study in Granada, where she was delighted to discover her work could transcend borders, allowing her to connect with other artists from different countries through art. This experience gave her the confidence and opened her mind to work cross-culturally. On returning to Santiago, she developed her career as a full-time artist, having a successful studio practice working alongside and exhibiting with the printmaking group Colectivo Gravura. During the week she would travel to smaller towns around the country selling her work in markets and leading workshops.

Despite living her dream as an artist, she felt a strong desire to go outside her comfort zone and challenge herself to create in a new environment. On an impulse she packed up everything and bought a one way ticket to Aotearoa.  On arrival Romina didn’t know anyone and struggled with the language. Although she had some commission work, she was unable to find an open access print facility or a print community to connect with and had to settle for a nine to five job to pay the bills. 

In 2021 Sororidad Latina NZ – a Facebook Group supporting Latino migrant women in Aotearoa, invited Romina to give a workshop screen-printing bandanas for International Women’s Day. There she met Colombian artist Juliana Durán who she worked with to deliver the workshop.  Collaboration is a way of working that Romina enjoys and has engaged with many times in her career as an artist. She believes there are several benefits to the process; you get to connect with another person, another world, finding something in common, you can support each other, you’re not alone, you get to share good and bad moments, it helps to build confidence and it’s fun. Romina says she has learnt so much about herself and about others by working as a collective. For her it is also a political statement, rejecting the western trend towards extreme individualism and embracing a shared human history of being part of a larger community. 

In 2022, she was one of the founding members of SUR Collective, formed by Juliana Durán who brought together a group of Latin American artists living in Auckland. Together they exhibit and run art events exploring themes of identity, immigration and living between worlds, with two languages, cultures, and customs. 

Romina will be at Printopia Festival of Original Print with SUR Collective who will be hosting a live printing event and selling some of their hand printed merchandise in the Print Fair, 5 – 7 May 2023.