ONE can spot any number of posters while walking on the street in India. Garish movie posters, tuition class advertisements and vague-sounding job posters — all have their place. But these stand in stark contrast to what is called the Polish Poster School, a movement that started in the mid ’50s in Poland. “It was characterised by posters that weren’t just effective communication tools but crossed over the boundary of design to become art,” state Magdalena Frankowska and Artur Frankowski, curators of the exhibition “Eye on Poland” at Mumbai’s Bhau Daji Lad Museum. The exhibition showcases around 60 posters by contemporary Polish graphic designers in addition to their books, exhibition catalogues, and CD and vinyl record covers. “The idea behind the exhibition is to show the viewer a wide range of design strategies that reflect the richness in current Polish graphic art,” say the duo.
Moonmadness, a Poland-based graphic design company, is one such example. Their posters often play around with the placement between letters, using their shapes to catch the viewer’s attention. One of their posters is for a jazz and experimental music festival called Jemp.
The letters J, E, M and P are placed in such a way that they hardly seem like letters at all, but rather part of the instruments that feature on the poster. The graphic design company Hipopotam Studio, which has made images of maps, is another instance of information-turned-art.
Fun drawings of animals, landscapes, and cultural icons make them more appealing.
According to Lokesh Karekar, a Mumbai-based graphic design artist, the posters in “Eye on Poland” use styles not usually seen in Western Europe. “Graphic designers from the West use a very structured approach. They follow their client’s instructions to put out a clear message that keeps their audience in mind. Indian posters use loud colours and decorative designs to catch attention,” says Karekar.
“However, graphic artists from Poland pay attention to the essence of the topic and create something based on their own interpretation of it,” continues Karekar. Using individual artistic expressions is seen as being more effective and appealing to the viewer. “The music posters in the exhibition bring out the exact emotion the band or performance is supposed to inspire,” says Karekar. Sam Kulavoor, another Mumbai-based graphic designer, agrees, adding, “The Polish posters are very conceptual — they are not as direct as posters you would normally find.”
Although artists such as Henryk Tomaszewski, Roman Cielewicz, Jan Lenica and Waldemar Wierzy set the scene for Polish graphic art with their vibrant colours and expressive styles, this past decade has seen a dynamic development in Polish art, say the curators. The emergence of new cultural institutions and events means that younger graphic designers are inspired to explore new means of expression — while keeping in mind the innovative character of the Polish Poster School. “It’s more in the realm of fine art than graphic design,” says Karekar.
The exhibition is on till July 31