Polish graphic design is gaining increasing recognition in Europe and around the world. The reason behind it is not only the traditional associations with Polish poster art and artists of the broadly defined ‘Polish Poster School’ (mid 50's till late 60's), such as Henryk Tomaszewski, Roman Cieślewicz, Jan Lenica or Waldemar Świerzy, but also the achievements of younger and middle generation designers who are nowadays searching for original solutions in their practice.
This growing recognition can also be attributed to the recent dynamic development of the arts and culture field in Poland, particularly to the emergence of new cultural institutions and the development of the existing ones. Another important and fast-growing phenomenon is independent publishing. The last few years have seen many new high-level publications, carefully designed and self-produced by independent publishers.
Who is a graphic designer and what is his/her role in contemporary society? Of the many different attitudes apparent in today’s understanding of the designer’s role, two are predominant. The first sees graphic design as a method of problem-solving, delivering a message in a neutral and unadorned form adapted to the particular content and target audience. In this process the designer should suppress the desire for personal expression to ensure effective and clear communication of the message. The second, while still regarding design as a tool for problem-solving, wants to ground it in cultural context and centers on its aesthetic function; the individual artistic expression of the designer is seen as something that increases, rather than limits, its effectiveness. This latter approach seems currently dominant among European applied graphic designers, Polish ones included.
The works presented in the exhibition "EYE ON POLAND. New Graphic Design from Poland" have been selected from several hundred books and posters designed by Polish artists and designers mainly in the last four years. Almost all of them were commissioned by cultural institutions, museums, foundations and art galleries. Working for cultural organisations, where the bar of expectations is raised high, gives designers the freedom to experiment and look for inventive means of expression. “Eye on Poland” presents the outcome of these collaborations: high-quality, cutting-edge designs marking new directions.
The idea behind the exhibition is to take the viewer on a voyage through a wide range of styles, attitudes and design strategies reflecting the richness of the current Polish graphic design scene. The works selected are primarily posters, books, exhibition catalogues and album covers. These varying forms, each serving a different function, can be transformed by an outstanding designer from everyday objects into artistic statements. We are convinced that despite the process of globalization, the tradition, native language and cultural identity have a considerable impact on the contemporary graphic language. Is Polish graphic design different from that of other European countries? We think that everyone should have a chance to find their own answer to this question – it is our hope that this exhibition will be an opportunity to do just that.
Magdalena Frankowska and Artur Frankowski, curators