I do not have patience to admire beauty in itself–skilful eye or hand. I prefer failure to mastered perfection… I am not interested in showing-off accomplished forms anymore. I enjoy, instead, playing with a language I do not know yet.
Henryk Tomaszewski, editor Agnieszka Szewczyk, translation Kinga Kowalczyk
I have recently visited Zachęta – National Gallery of Art in Warsaw where Henryk Tomaszewski’s graphic work is on show till 10th June. The exhibition and the work of the leader of the Polish Poster School was a revelation and a fortunate coincidence. In this post I used some of the photographs I had shot in the gallery, fragments of the exhibition catalogue, Steven Heller’s article for the New York Times (2005) and one of the episodes of the Polish Film Chronicles (1978).
Even when he made a poster to advertise another artist’s exhibition, Mr. Tomaszewski interpreted the content. For example, to announce a 1959 show of Henry Moore’s sculptures, he created a veritable sculpture garden from the letters of the artist’s name and placed Moore’s “Mother and Child” on a pedestal made from the “O” in Moore. But this handling of the subject was not just a flagrant personal conceit; Mr. Tomaszewski succeeded in showcasing the salient features in Moore’s work that were akin to his own.
PKF – Polish Film Chronicle, a 10 minute long newsreel, was part of the official information media in the communist Poland. I decided to use one of the episodes here to give a feel for the times in which Tomaszewski lived and worked in.
“Politics is like the weather,” he once said, “you have to live with it.” His art benefited from this resistance, since he was forced to come up with concealed satiric images in his work. He stayed clear of overtly political issues and focused entirely on designing posters for cultural institutions and events.