FRANCISZEK STAROWIEYSKI

TEXT BY JAN SAWKA

In the great constellation of Polish poster stars of the last 35 years, Franciszek Starowieyski occupies a very special place. His talent is immense: he possesses great drawing skills and a truly masterful sense of space and color. From the beginning of his career he has followed his own path, ignoring passing trends and fancy styles. Starowieyski's art seems firmiy based in the past. The masters of Italian art, the Dutch painters and the German etchers of the 17th century all figure among his natural influences. Starowieyski never hides these connections; on the contrary, he often signs his works "1682" instead of "1982." It is important to recognize that Starowieyski is not only a graphic artist: he is equally at home in the theater. His outstanding theater posters are often accompanied by strikingly innovative set designs, for both classical and modern plays. Some years ago he crossed yet another new border, developing his own "Theater of Drawing." In a large space created by canvassed frames, he draws his visions live, before a changing audience. The process takes several days at least, sometimes as long as a week. The mostly theatrical posters featured in this issue present some of the most important strong points of his style. Starowieyski masterfully portrays traumatic sexual relationships between people, the dark mental deterioration of the heroes of dramas, cruelty and the passions of love and hate. His visual vocabulary is rich and metaphysical, surreal and magical all at the same time. His anatomical mastery of the human and animal body is splendid; yet the artist deforms the faces and torsos, adding a sense of drama and tragedy. Many of Starowieyski's works are pure studies of human madness. Others show the piercing intelligence of the artist in commenting on the political events of his time and his country. Two such masterpieces may be singled out here. One is his poster for Franz Kafka's play about claustrophobic confinement to a small room. It is a dramatic study of the intellectual imprisonment which was present for so many centuries in Starowieyski's part of Europe. The second work is the poster for Mickiewicz's play addressing the long and tragic struggle of Poland for freedom. The march of fallen heroes and the struggle encompassing many generations are depioted with brilliance and simplicity. Starowieyski's mastery of drawing is always striking. His deformation is amazingly well conducted. His colors, if any, are developed with a great sense of balance. And the text is so integrated with the picture, we have the feeling we are seeing a pure work of fine art, not a commissioned poster. Despite his declarations of having no interest in politics and contemporary events, Starowieyski's art sends us a powerful message. His tormented mind cries out a personal protest against the growing paranoia of society. He tries to hide himself behind the cover of the Old Masters style and carefully restricts his territory to the theatrical stage. But within the territory of his choice we are all spectators of a great and magical personal theater named Franciszek Starowieyski.


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