Berlin’s festival of illustration, Illustrative, will feature Polish graphic design as the focus for this year.
The background of the Berlin festival's Polish focus in 2013 is grounded at the beginning of the post-war period. Since that time, Poland has been known on the international scene as a powerhouse of illustration and printing. The spectacular 30-year success of both the Polish Poster School and the School of Illustration helped establish artists from Poland as specialists in graphic design, honoured with major awards from prestigious exhibitions and festivals across Europe, the Americas and Asia.
During this golden age of graphic design, visual poetry, fantasy, and irresistibly trendy puns filled Polish work, earning it the stature of a major international reference in book illustration and design. In the mid 1960s in Geneva, UNESCO presented Nasza Księgarnia / Our Bookstore publications as examples for UN member states. The designers and artists Henryk Tomaszewski, Józef Wilkoń, Olga Siemaszko, Zbigniew Rychlicki, Janusz Stanny and others became etched in the history of art of the second half of the 20th century.
The political transformation at the end of the 1980s weakened Polish illustration and caused it to go largely unnoticed for two decades. For artists born in the 1960s, this period marked a difficult time for entering public-design projects - but some managed to break through: Maria Ekier, Ewa Olejnik and Paweł Pawlak, to name three. In 2003, the achievements of its artists from the 1950s to the 1980s earned Poland guest-of-honour status at the 40th Jubilee International Book Fair in Bologna.
Since the beginning of the 2000s, exhibitions, fairs and festivals have been showcasing the artists born in the 1970s and 1980s. Berlin’s Illustrative festival presents the contemporary experience of young Polish artists in these fields, taking their presence on the international design scene and juxtaposing it with the unique history of Polish graphic art and illustration.
As part of the sixth edition of Illustrative, these Polish artists are highlighted, with two organizations from Warsaw that promote young artists – the ILLO Foundation and STGU – will present the work of about 30 Polish illustrators, in collaboration with the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.
The exhibition Where I Come From will be shown in the festival's Direktorenhaus, the main exhibition area. The exhbition title refers to tradition in the visual arts as well as the stance of the illustrator as an artist. The show collects works from the past decade, most of which were published in books and magazines such as Newsweek and Wysokie Obcasy / High Heels. In an interview with Culture.pl, Agata Nowicka, a curator of the exhibition, explained that these works weren't prepared for the Berlin festival, and that the display will present previously unpublished illustrations such as Ada Buchholz’s Into the Wild and a new mural by Alexandra Niepsuj.
Amongst the illustrations, photos of Warsaw’s architecture by Dawid Ryski will be presented alongside ceramic buildings designed by Magdalena Łapińska and drawings of child-raising by Rafał Szczepaniak. The selection exemplifies the breadth of the festival’s programme, and includes works not directly related to graphic design. This expansive range will also include works by the late Janek Dziaczkowski, with his collage-design for the cover of Architektura-murator magazine, a drawing of the Amazon by Maciej Sieńczyk, the piece Poetry by Agata Bogacka, and pictures by Aleksandra Waliszewska.
The curators, Agata Nowicka and Maria Zaleska, wrote in press materials:
The fact that we can have Polish illustration represented at a legitimate global festival instead of just one single exhibition is very important. This exposure gives us a direct connection with the audience upon which we really depend: artistic directors of publishing houses and advertising agencies, journalists, the media that’s devoted to art, as well as fans and collectors of good illustrations.
Several Polish illustrators were selected for Illustrative's main exhibition of Illustrative, curated by the founders of the festival, Pascal Johanssen and Katia Kleiss. Included among nearly 200 international artists are works by Arobal, Tymek Jezierski and Bożena Rydlewska. Along with Jezierski’s graphic-design projects, he will present models he described in his Culture.pl interview as a continuation of his exploration.
Bored of illustration that served only as an additive or decoration, I wanted to expand the opportunities a flat sheet of paper could offer in order to create spatial objects. I have planned a whole series of similar objects that are meant to be visualizations of my drawings and sketches.
As the organizers of the festival declare:
The main theme of 2013 is four coordinates: art versus craft and technology versus intention. An illustrator is an artist for hire, so they simultaneously seek employment and the pursuance of their artistic ambitions. This complex situation places them in an area of both internal and external conflict forcing them to seek satisfactory solutions for both parties: the client/payer and themselves.
Polish illustration and graphics created by the nation’s young designers was has been presented in Berlin at the exhibitions All Play No Work and Design for Freedom. Pascal Johanssen describes strengths of the work from Polish illustrators: “The contemporary scene of Polish illustration is very strong. Surely the time has come to show the world their artistic potential.”
Illustrative is an international festival of illustration and design launched in 2006 in Berlin. It claims to be the largest, most important event dedicated to the achievements of contemporary art. In previous years it has held exhibitions in Paris and Zurich. The festival has been presented with the Young Illustrators award in three categories: illustration, animation and book. Workshops and panel discussions are scheduled in addition to the viewing galleries.
Artists: Jan Bajtlik, Edgar Bąk, Agata Bogacka, Katarzyna Bogucka, Ada Buchholc, Ola Cieślak, Agata Dudek, Jan Dziaczkowski, Anna Goszczyńska, Mirosław Gryń, Daniel Horowitz, Marta Ignerska, Marcelina Jarnuszkiewicz, Tymek Jezierski, Paweł "Pejot" Jońca, Magdalena Karpińska, Bartek "Arobal" Kociemba, Malwina Konopacka, Magdalena Łapińska, Anna Niesterowicz, Agata Marszałek, Zuza Miśko, Alek Morawski, Ola Niepsuj, Agata Nowicka, Jan Estrada Osmycki, Łukasz Rayski, Bożka Rydlewska, Dawid Ryski, Marta Sławińska, Rafał Szczepaniak, Maciej Sieńczyk, Marianna Sztyma, Tomasz Walenta, Aleksandra Waliszewska, Magda Wolna
Curators: Agata Nowicka (STGU), Maria Zaleska (ILLO)
Project design: CENTRALA (Małgorzata Kuciewicz, Simone de Iacobis)
Sources: own materials, www.historiasztuki.uni.wroc.pl, organizer’s material
Author: Agnieszka Sural, 8/08/2013
Translation: SMG 9/08/2013