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Graphis nr 323

Stasys: Giving Flight to a Restless Imagination

Artist, designer, photographer, illustrator, playwriter: Lithuanian-born, Warsaw-based Stasys is literally a renaissance man of the arts.

[...] The Polish art historian and critic Wojciech Skrodzki describes the artist's work as 'theatre of memory', adding, 'Childhood is the main reservoir of the forces of his imagination. It's a guarantee of the authenticity of his vision.' Stasys's childhood was also the source of the striking, doleful face that haunts so much of his art. The artist says that he began drawing the face in the margins of his elementary-school notebooks, and eventually, 'little by little, the face began to appear in most of my works.' He remains ambivalent about his childhood, describing it both as 'an unhappy time' and 'an airport for my imagination'. [...] According to Skrodzki, Poland's artists had been aesthetically free since the mid-1950s. Even under Communist control, he says, 'Poland, artistically, was an integral part of Western Europe. It was, in my opinion, equal to such artistic centers as France and Italy. The artists' problems here were the same as in Western Europe.' In addition the country had long served as a beacon for other Eastern European countries, especially Lithuania,' Stasys explains. 'Information about modern art came to Lithuania through Polish-language art magazines and newspapers.'
The 1980s were also a high point for the Polish poster, and Stasys's simple and striking images immediately founf a new format. The suggestion of an art critic at an exhibition of his paintings, that one of the works would make an ideal poster, moved Stasys to turn the work into a print. Later it was used for an exhibition of his work in the city of Torun and was awarded a prize at the 1983 Warsaw Poster Biennale. The poster shows a figure with the typical Stasys face imposed on a potato head. A strip of paper divides the face in two, forms the nose, and hangs down into the figure's hands like a ticker tape. The image is characteristic: whimsical, mysterious, oddly disquieting.
Stasys says that the poster was a natural development for him. 'The language of the poster is simple, just one element, one face, a bird, and so on. Most of my posters were not made as posters. Rather, I made something and a theatre director would come to my studio and say, 'Stasys, I like this, I can use it.' [...]
Siegfried Mortkowitz