Poland had to wear its Communist clothes during the Cold War but what stood out in those bleak times were the colourful posters with their “sophisticated imagery and surreal tendencies”. These posters have been an inspiration for designers since the end of the 19th century. An exhibition, “Eye on Poland”, showcases new graphic design from Poland, which carries hints of its cultural heritage yet emerges as an independent voice in the European art scene.
After its display in Japan and South Korea, this exhibition comes to Delhi at Triveni Kala Sangam. Organised by Art Heritage Gallery and the Polish Institute, it closes on December 10. The curators are Artur Frankowski and Magdalena Frankowska, founders of design studio Fontarte. “We wanted works that were commissioned. They are not designed just for art but for real, for museums, for festivals and for magazines. We also wanted to show independently published books. Each of these successful designers bring with them different attitudes, styles and design strategies,” says Frankowski.
The curators encourage you to smell the books on display. The Locomotive, designed by Malgorzata Gurowska, carries a whiff of political commentary as it challenges notions of racism, national identity and attitudes to the environment. Inspired by a famous Polish poem for children, the pages are designed as an accordion and its illustrations are in black and white. The wordless book imagines a train at a station, with animate and inanimate objects in each wagon. As the book progresses, the images changes from bananas and sausages to soliders, Jews and army tanks. Another book by Robert Czajka, Architekturki, is a pop-up of architectural elements, from rotundas to glazed windows. Solid colours and simple figurines feature in the everyday landscapes of a Polish city. His is one of the many works on display that engages viewers not only visually but also intellectually, making one question, the multiple points of view.
Lovecats, a poster by Ola Niepsuj, takes elements from simple drawings to a digital canvas for a concert of 100 people. “It’s a play of colours and intelligence. It’s not only about aesthetics but letting the designer be a creator of images, an interpreter of events and ideas,” says Frankowski.
While Hollywood had taken over world cinema, Polish designers were making their own internal posters for these films. Often they would get so competitive that one film would have more than one poster. Most of European design history showcased what was fashionable. For instance, Swiss design focused on geometry but Polish design ran the race with wit. Some of these are visible in Lech Majewski’s poster of the film Cabaret where a gloved arm extends to become a high-heeled shoe.
Minimalist geometry and bold colours are ubiquitous in every work displayed. Collaboration between artists and designers, analogue versus digital, and new experiments in graphic design can also be seen at this exhibition.
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