Educated lawyer with the temperament of a punk-rocker. Animator of the alternative scene and leader of the legendary quasi-theatrical group Komuna Otwock / Otwock Commune. Known for his posters created for the controversial plays staged by the TR Warszawa theatre, formerly called Teatr Rozmaitości.
Born in 1967, Laszuk provocatively claims he doesn’t participate in visual fashions. Despite his reservations toward trend he is considered one of the most interesting creators of the middle age generation, with a reputation for constantly revising his visual language.
The tome Miliard rzeczy dookoła /A Billion Surrounding Things features a collection of conversations with graphics designers. Here, in an interview with Agata Szydłowska, Laszuk somewhat ironically compares his job to the work of a shoemaker in reference to the service-oriented, nonautonomous character of his profession. It is a balance between a designer's inner impulses and the needs of clients, which are often ephemeral and prone to fluctuation.
'I think that books are like shoes that get worn out and have to be thrown away.' This tongue-on-cheek remark refers to the paradox which lies at the heart of a designer’s job and the tensions linked to the profession. At that, Laszuk ventures, 'I’m not an artist. I’m a practical designer.'
A lawyer by education, Laszuk completed the Post-Secondary Polygraphical Study and practiced his craft at the Spółdzielnia Gryf /Griffon Co-Op printing-office. Right from the beginning he was fascinated by technical issues.
He reminisces: I was looking for a job that would help me win over my illness, which made me read every letter, every text I saw on the street (Miliard rzeczy dookoła).
His first experiences involving the use of software that enabled the merging of graphics and photography date back to the early 90s. When he became acquainted with the programs Ventura and Page Maker he began to think that a graphic artist doesn’t necessarily have to have the technique of a plastic artist in order to skillfully merge texts and images. That was a creative breakthrough for Laszuk.
I never had and I still don’t have such talents as drawing (…) he said in a conversation with Izabela Szymańska, published by the Co Jest Grane /What’s Going On supplement of the newspaper Gazeta Stołeczna /Capital Newspaper (26.08.2013).
Laszuk began his creative work in a time when Polish visual culture was still in its primordial phase. The early capitalism of those days was characterized by chaos, a lack of standards and an absence of sanctioned codes. Nevertheless the possibilities for a young creator were never again going to be as promising as they were in that era.
Laszuk quickly went from being a flyer supplier to being a full-time designer of posters for Krzysztof Warlikowski’s and Grzegorz Jarzyna’s plays. The graphic artist collaborated with the Teatr Rozmaitości theatre, today called TR, on such plays a Hamlet (1999), Bachantki / Bacchantes (2001), Anioły w Ameryce / Angels in America (2007), Macbeth (2007) and Nosferatu (2011).
In Izabela Szymańska’s interview for the Co Jest Grane supplement he presented the nature of this longstanding collaboration:
- The plays and the posters for them are created at the same, so when I design I don’t know what will eventually be shown on stage. Therefore I most often read the text that is to be staged, I watch rehearsals and I direct my own play in my head. The graphic artist isn’t the first person to say what the poster will look like. Opinions are also formed by the artistic director, the director, and the playwright. The scenographer also comes forth wanting to add something.
Laszuk provocatively says that posters are the real 'packages' of products, only that in his case the packing contains cultural goods.
The series made for the TR theatre feature vivid images (most often photographs), expressive typography and bold colour schemes. Laszuk came up with an individual, emotional style for these works.
The revolutionary potential of these posters stems not only from their aesthetic appeal but also from the fact that they are integrated with the message of the plays. The issues addressed in these spectacles – sexual freedom, gay and lesbian rights, definitions of mental health and illness, civil liberties, threats to Polish democracy present in social space – are still controversial. As his sensibility was shaped by anarchistic punk-rock movements from the 80s and 90s, political messages come naturally to Laszuk.
Apart from working for the TR Warszawa theatre, for which he also created amongst others a new visual identification, Laszuk is also involved with the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw. His collaboration with the latter institution, for which he has created exhibition catalogues and information brochures the Kino Lab logo, began in 1995. Laszuk also works on the visual settings of his own project which he realizes in the framework of Komuna/Warszawa. He designed publications for the Bęc Zmiana publishing house.
As a truly modern man, Laszuk does attach his sense of self to his profession. 'I might lose this job, because something may go wrong. I’ll be sad then, but that’s the way things go. Somebody else will take my place, somebody better let’s hope' (Miliard rzeczy dookoła).
Author: Lidia Pańków, August 2013, translation: Marek Kępa
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