The Lowly Poster Becomes Art

Polish posters exhibited at Java cafe and gallery come from a generation of designers and creators who could tell Cambodia a great deal about its artists of tomorrow.

The array of styles and techniques reflect a generation of artists who are children of peace in a country that has known as much turmoil as Cambodia.

Their nation lost more than 11 million people during last century’s two world wars, then rose from the ashes only to fall under the Com­munist control of a capital thousands of miles away. But Poland eventually gained its independence and, during the 1990s, moved to a democratic system and free-market economy.

In the 19th century, poster art served mostly for teaching. But in the 20th century, posters emerged as one of Poland’s leading art forms. Styles ranged from free-flowing sketches to precise architectural drawings; from the use of photos and cartoonish figures, to abstract and surrealist designs; from sober lines on plain backgrounds to explosions of image and color.

Depending on the political system in place at the time, the artists were free to follow their inspiration or were forced to express their rulers’ political messages.

Poland has gained international fame for its poster art, winning numerous international awards, said Ambassador Kazimierz Duchowski, Poland’s charge d’affaires in Cam­bodia. A poster museum opened in 1968 in the Polish city of Warsaw is one of the few of its kind in the world, he said.

The posters at Java cafe are mainly from the 1980s and 1990s, de­signed by artists who mostly worked in post-trauma Poland. Many had witnessed crises, but not war.

Their posters feature plays, festivals and special events, in styles that often pay homage to previous generations of Polish artists. Their work also reflects the freer times they live in, with fewer constraints on styles or themes.

Works of future Cambodian art­ists, with little or no memory of wars and conflicts, may one day reflect a new Cambodia.

The exhibition at Java cafe and gallery, located at 56 Sihanouk Blvd, runs until the end of March. The gallery is closed on Mondays.



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