Polish Film Poster Exhibition: linking art and politics

Published

Gaby Somarriba
Writer

In this time of political uncertainty and social struggles, art has yet again become a tool to express one’s ideas and feelings to a broader audience, and to show and talk about other realities that sometimes are not understood or given enough attention.

After WWII, Poland was ruled by the new government of the Communist party. Social and political discomfort prevailed in the country and freedom of speech was non-existent. One of the ways to promote the new government to the citizens was through propaganda posters. However, around the 50s and 60s, the practice of making posters became something more than political advertising; it changed to be a more stylised, versatile and free medium for artists’ opinions and creativity. A spread movement called the Polish School of Posters emerged with power and without borders.
The Polish Film Poster exhibition that is taking place at The Old Hairdressers in Glasgow’s City Centre (23 Oct – 03 Nov) is an example of how creative mediums such as posters and films were and continue to be used as important sources to represent a nation’s culture ideology and social concerns. The original thirteen posters made from 1947 to 1984 and brought from private Polish collections represent in a unique way the long and rich tradition of Polish posters. The making of posters was similarly important in art shows and theatrical productions, however this exhibition focused on film only.
Polish Poster(1)
Polish posters were not only popular in their country – their colourful and metaphorical style, and their similarity to fine art rather than the standard poster design, intrigued filmmakers from other countries.

The Leopard (1963), for instance, is a film made by an Italian director Luchino Visconte, and whose poster was created by the Polish artist Wiesław Wałkuski. Romuald Socha also created a poster for a Swedish film, Games of Love and Loneliness (1977, dir. Anja Breien). At that time, artists and directors worked together to create the posters. It was not a PR or marketing task as nowadays, but a share of ideas between the people involved in the project that would consequently reflect the essence of the film. These two posters, although different at first sight in their styles and colours, clearly reflect the new artistic independence experienced by Polish poster designers.

The posters do not present any of the main protagonists of the films, nor do they make references to specific scenes; the artists created their work as a metaphor of the story of the film and so, the posters rarely tell viewers the themes and plot of the film. Their work is uncanny, surreal and full of double meanings. The images can be dark or colourful but they always appeal to the viewer visually and show artistic endeavor.

The Polish Film Poster exhibition is not only a way to demonstrate the important history of Polish posters but it is also a form to acknowledge the Polish community in the city of Glasgow and Europe while learning about the traditions seen in exhilarating Polish art.


The poster exhibition is presented in parallel to Play Poland 2016 Film Festival (21st Oct – 5th Nov).