WantedDesign is a platform dedicated to promoting design and fostering the local and international creative community throughout the year.

POLKI HIDDEN POWER – Online Exhibition

POLKI HIDDEN POWER – Online Exhibition

  • WantedDesign is very happy to host beautiful work created by nine Polish female illustrators and designers in the “POLKI Hidden Power” online exhibition, touching on the subject of womanhood and feminine strength, expressed in everyday life.

We spoke with curator Monika Brauntsch and artist Ewelina Skowrońska to gain further insight on the occasion of this exciting exhibition:

Monika Brauntsch
Ewelina Skowrońska

Q: Illustration and Graphic Design are part of the Polish culture and often tied to political or societal issues.

Do you see new trends, techniques and approaches in the new generation of Polish designers?

Ewelina Skowrońska:

Personally, I do not feel that in general Polish illustration is more related to politics or social matters than other countries. You can see such examples, but not more than in other regions or markets.  I think it is more the individual choice of the individual artists/designers. 

Certainly in important moments of social and public life, the creative environment also gets engaged in public debate, using all available tools, so artists and illustrators often act in this way. When you look, for example, at what is happening in Poland right now, at this very moment, the abortion ban, and all the demonstrations connected with it, you can see lots of illustrations and graphics being used and shared by artists/designers with a strong political voice.

In addition, it seems to me that in the era of social media, digital drawing, Adobe Cloud and [online] tutorials, Polish illustrators use exactly the same techniques or methods of work [as that in other regions], especially since many of them work not only for the Polish market, but also for many international brands, companies or institutions.

Nevertheless, perhaps one could be tempted to the theory that due to historical issues, the political system, location on the map, some kind of complexes affecting Poles, but also a high level of artistic education, Polish illustration has the courage to create not only beautiful, fashionable and commercial works, but there is room for variety, a kind of “ugliness” or dark humor.” 

Monika Brauntsch: 

On the other hand, we draw from the rich traditions of Polish School of Illustration and Polish School of Posters, which made the Polish design scene famous in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Perhaps thanks to this heritage we are still pretty strong in illustration, to give the example of Polish publishing houses such as ¨Dwie Siostry” winning in March 2018, the BOP (Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year for Europe) or the Maps by Mizielinskis Maps’ being published in over 30 countries in a total circulation of over 3 million copies, and many other Polish illustrators. And many excellent graphic designers working for international magazines, publishing houses, museums or fashion houses.

Graphic design and illustration are extremely strong in Poland, characterized by enormous diversity, cooperating with various fields and areas. Perhaps it may affect other areas to some extent, such as computer games design, but… we are still within the global trends, and it’s perhaps not us setting them, but hopefully we contribute somehow.

Q: Is there a “design movement” in Poland emerging from the context we are in? 

MB: There are many such contexts, but their complexity probably allows one to find their place in the area that is closest to them. For some it will be the #metoo movement; for others, environmental actions; and for others, social issues or political events.

Certainly, from the beginning of the formation of independent Poland [1918], graphics were present — for example, through the famous “Solidarity” sign, which became a symbol of the fight for freedom. Likewise now, subsequent political events or social movements are often embodied in graphics distributed by social media, which become a symbol of protests or demonstrations. But I would not say that this is a special movement. For me, it is a rather spontaneous, but professional support for action — simply a response to the situation.

Certainly, thanks to social media that tells us what we like, design is more democratized and more accessible. On the other hand, of course, it cannot replace conscious participation in cultural life. But at the same time the cultural life, in Covid’s times, goes online.

Photo by Julia Galati. “Captains of Illustration from Poland” exhibition by Adam Mickiewicz Institute, presenting masters of Polish illustration and their contemporary successor. 

Q: A great sense of humor seems to be a common characteristic in the nine featured designers’ work: Is it a Polish woman’s hidden power?

ES: For me, humor itself is making the topic shallow. Yes, it appears, even more as black humor or irony, but I believe that the POLKI – Hidden Power selection does not only contain such elements. In fact, apart from Sabina Samulska’s works and Sunday is Monday, the other artists don’t use humor that much. It seems to me that nine artists approach the subject in their works in a very different way, and in my opinion this is the strength and power — to go your own way, regardless of trends or social orders.

MB: A sense of humor or irony were certainly characteristic of the Polish School of Illustration and Polish School of Posters, and I personally believe that we still draw on these traditions, although of course this is not an area reserved for Polish illustration only.

But it is definitely the perfect detail, rescaled proportions, and funny elements that make the illustration interesting.

Ewelina is probably right saying that not everyone uses it, but on the other hand, it is this sense of humor that attracts attention and is remembered.

For me, Ewelina’s works such as Shaving Girls are basically also full of a sense of humor 🙂

Ewelina Skowrońska – Shaving Girls collection

Q: How are women represented in the Polish design industry and community? 

MB: I believe (and I hope that the others agree with me) that Polish women are very well-represented in the design industry and community. At least here we have equality.

From independent creators on social media, creators to award winners — such as DesignAlive or STGU Awards, and the initiators of activities important to the Polish scene — women are present, visible, involved, appreciated and respected.

Q: What is, for you as a curator, your hidden power?

MB: I interpret “hidden power” in different ways. On the one hand, what gives strength to me, what inspires me. On the other, the strength that keeps me going, that I can offer and which turns into some kind of creative energy that comes back “outside.” 

Nature is what gives me strength on a daily basis. I am lucky to live in a city, but on the verge of the beautiful forest and walking distance to the sea. It was my decision to move here from Warsaw a few year ago, but now I can see how good it was. Nature is the power. 

There are also people around me and those close to me that I would not survive without. But also people that I don’t know: the “heros” from non-fiction books and documentaries. These have been my favorite genres in the field of literature and film for several years. And of course, quite often it leaves me depressed, but at the same time it makes me aware.

And awareness is a strength. Although at the same time, it is something that we must fight for, that we must nourish in order to understand the complexity of the world. I believe it is our responsibility to be aware: in matters such as the environment, equality and inequality, racism, economics and exploitation. This knowledge is widely available, and we decide how much we want to make use of it. 

I think that awareness often leaves us with no choice — it forces us to act. And that’s good! 

If, on the other hand, I was given some “gifts,” it is probably quite a high independence and willingness to explore the world. It has always been natural to me, although it has always involved some risk or uncertainty. But thanks to it, all my life I’m in a process, and that also gives me strength to be and to act. 

Monika Brauntsch – ¨Nature is the power¨


Visit the “POLKI Hidden Power” online exhibition until December 15th, 2020 at https://www.wanteddesignnyc.com/polki-hidden-power/

“POLKI Hidden Power” was produced by The Spirit of Poland and financed from the funds of the Multi-annual Program INDEPENDENT 2017-2022, as part of the “Cultural bridges” subsidy program of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Organized in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York.