Klimowski: A Retrospective Exhibition

There is a great theatrical tradition in the UK, but the same cannot be said of poster design for theatre and film. Since many of the posters in Andrzej Klimowski's retrospective were designed for Polish theatres and film distributors, visitors encountered an altogether different tradition, which is highly dramatic and expressive, utilising metaphors and symbols, rather than realism.

The exhibition traced the influence of Andrzej Klimowski's Polish posters – designed in the 1970s and 1980s – on his later book cover designs for UK publishers and illustrations for the British press. Although his posters avoided gestural painting and calligraphic virtuosity, they shared the drama and surreal iconography seen in Polish masters of the medium such as Roman Ciešlewicz and Jan Lenica. What began to distinguish Andrzej Klimowski's work from that of his colleagues was the darkroom transformation and graphic treatment of his own photographs. On his return to England, Andrzej Klimowski retained the dramatic engagement with subject matter and form and found an appropriate outlet with book publishers, notably Faber & Faber.

Exhibiting the original artworks alongside the printed covers offered the viewer an insight into the close relationship graphic design can achieve with the dramatic arts and revealed the care taken in interpreting themes. The exhibition also included series of linocut prints and drawings which exerted an influence on the Oberon Playwright covers. These projects emphasised the contribution that self-motivated visual research makes to applied commercial work, widening the designer's technical and artistic vocabulary. The retrospective likewise illustrated Andrzej Klimowski's reliance on a personal archive of imagery assembled over the years. The exhibition, with a catalogue introduced by Harold Pinter, was seen by 50,000 visitors and was reviewed in Design Week, The Guardian, The Times and Financial Times. It travelled to the Museum of European Illustration in Hull, where Andrzej Klimowski gave a public talk.