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A peep into iconic posters from Poland

New Delhi: When Indian artist Arpana Caur visited Poland around five years ago, she fulfilled a long cherished dream of visiting the world famous poster musuem in capital Warsaw.

Caur is among the numerous people who grew up seeing the film posters of the 1960s and 1970s that were predominantly created by Polish artists and had achieved cult status. Some iconic posters from the period include Richard Attenborough directed film "Gandhi" and "The return of the Pink Panther".

Poster art along with a host of other printmaking techniques that were in vogue before the advent of modern technological breakthroughs is currenty on display at the Lalit Kala Akademi here.

A total of 160 works by 100 artists and academics chosen from the seven academies of Fine Arts in Poland are on show at the "Contemporary Polish Printmaking" exhibition that will conclude here on May 15.

Traditional printmaking techniques such as mezzotint, stone lithography, linocut, and etchings are presented in the exhibiton where artists also explore the boundaries of new territories, such as digital and mixed media. Universal themes such as ecology, love, war, beauty, international dilemas have been depicted.

"The seven Academies of Fine Arts in Poland – Gdansk, Katowice, Krakow, Lodz, Poznan, Warsaw and Wroclaw – are participating in the exhibition and the artists for the most part are professors and educators. Polish printmaking is flourishing and internationally renowned for its excellence," says curator Christopher Nowicki.

Anna Tryc-Bromley, First Secretary, Cultural Affairs Section in Polish Embassy here says, "Posters were very strong in the 60s and 70s and was the main medium of communication on the streets announcing films, theatre, events, even abstract ideas such as a famous series celebrating the art of circus."

Meanwhile, Nowicki, a Professor at the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Art and Design in Wroclaw says the exhibition was all about Polish prints and was concieved as a way to bring printmakers together. "Printmaking is always evolving as artists continue to challenge themselves and society continues to change giving new inspiration and subject matter," says Nowicki.

There is, he says, a growing appreciation of older methods of printmaking now even as some other western countries had accepted newer digital techniques and direction in printmaking.
"Five years ago as a tourist in Poland I searched for and visited the poster musuem, the only one in the world. We grew up with a heavy dose of Polish posters and to have seen it in flesh is a privilege," says Arpana Caur.

Caur, who is primarily a painter says she taught herself printmaking and over the last 32 years she keeps going back to the Lalit Kala Studios and produced a total of 35 etchings. The curator of the ongoing exhibtion says, "Unfortunately globalisation has taken its toll on Polish poster design. There are still many Polish artists specializing in graphic design and posters and the art continues to expand but maybe the `Golden Age` of Polish posters is drawing to a close."

Nowicki points out that many stage and film productions are now promoted as a package deal with all promotional material being arranged in advance by the company doing the promotion and the old way of having local artists design posters is not so popular now. "But on the other hand there are many very good young poster designers in Poland and I believe there are still a few competitions for poster design," says the curator.

The ongoing exhibition is part of a cultural exchange programme between the Polish institutions who are organising this exhibition and the Lalit Kala Akademi. "The quality of the prints displayed are exceptional and it is a great privilege for the Indian art fratenity. We are considering taking the exhibtion to other regional centres of the Lalit Kala Akademi," said an official of the Lalit Kala Akademi.

Under this programme there will be a reciprocal art initiative taken by the Lalit Kala Akademi in Poland in 2013. The International Poster Biennale that gathers graphic designers from around the world including Brazil, Japan, China and most European countries and some from US, will take place in Warsaw in the Museum of Poster and officials from Poland say they are hopeful in next two years there will be entries from India too.

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