Ten years ago, the fifth and the last edition of the Poster Festival in Cracow took place. The project could not be continued because of the lack of sponsors who would support it. The organizers’ involvement was not enough to provide a proper setting for such an event. The Poster Museum at Wilanów has given up the Polish Poster Overview, probably for the same reason. Therefore, young poster artists have lost a major opportunity to present and confront their artistic skills.
The International Student Poster Biennale in Lublin has a great chance to fill this gap and succeed in developing the initiative in the future. Personally, I am impressed with the number of submitted works as well as their great diversity. The international range of the biennale is undoubtedly a real asset. Not only has the competition provided an opportunity to follow the works by Polish students, but it has also given an insight into the activity of young artists from all over the world.
ISPB is primarily a debutants’ competition. The jurors of the biennale are aware of this fact, having been the laureates of similar contests in the past. The number of submissions, over 1500, mirrors the artists’ great interest in this young field of art. The authors do not care about the marginalization of poster art’s value or some critics’ illegitimate attempts to neglect it. In the same way as poster art struggles to find its place in public space, young artists compete in their first contests. The vast number of participants, who believe in the power of poster art as a medium, reflects the value of ISPB. It also supports the idea of the biennale as a cyclical competition.
Poster art is a dynamic space. The European (mainly Polish), American or Japanese achievements no longer determine the value of this field of art. Even the most traditional, long-time poster competitions, such as the International Poster Biennale in Warsaw, are not able to embrace all trends and new artistic tendencies. Nowadays, posters are produced easily and in great numbers. Works from different regions of the world, particularly from Asian countries, like China, Iran, Korea or Taiwan, but also South America and Mexico, show their distinct character and a great potential in graphic design. The reception and interpretation of such works may be problematic, considering their specific lettering and conceptual differences. They often abound in subtexts and intellectual playfulness, which is also characteristic for Polish posters. The authors’ more detailed descriptions of the works would probably be helpful in their reading. Although posters are supposed to function as messages, we should bear in mind that they are not pure images, but they also involve texts. These elements create specific mental constructs, which cannot be understood without a proper reading of each of their components.
What makes poster art particularly valuable is its multifaceted character. This is why posters should be evaluated regardless of the techniques used by the artists, but paying attention to the effect they have achieved.
The internet is a means of sharing ideas. Many artistic projects nowadays are spread in the electronic form only, and used by no one but their authors. In the past, projects were kept in the artists’ studios, sketchbooks or simply in their minds. Now they are instantly presented to the public. Any project had to be approved by the orderer, the rewiever and the artist. It was difficult for the last one to decide whether to print the work in the technique of litography, screen printing, linocut, woodcut or offset, which was the most expensive one. Printing is no longer expensive and posters can be digitally printed with ease. What strikes a follower of poster art is some artists’ lack of self-criticism or even general knowledge, and lots of borrowings. Some time ago, it was hard to imagine that a theatre, film or opera poster could be created by someone without a profound knowledge of those fields. These days, it happens quite often. Many projects are probably created too fast. For those who know the masterpieces of poster art it may seem that there is nothing that can surprise them. Fortunately, it turns out that many young artists are still able to create innovative projects.
Although poster art may seem static, it continues to be effective. Cyclical poster reviews mirror the constant evolution of visual language, which is generally getting more concise and universal. Still, poster art has got two faces. One of them follows the practical values of advertising. The second one sticks to purely esthetical and artistic values. Posters which involve and balance both aspects definitely stand out. I am convinced that, in the same way as the 2nd International Student Poster Biennale has fulfilled its aim of presenting and comparing the achievements of young artists from different countries, the further editions will provide the opportunity to follow the works by novice poster artists and become major turning points in their careers.