Heiri Ste in er
Jan Lenica, one of Poland's leading artists, is today well known in the West. After
giving up his musical studies in favour of architecture in 1947, at the age of nineteen,
he had his first one-man exhibition of graphic art in Warsaw in 1948. Satirical draw
ings of his had appeared in Szpilki as early as 1945. He did his first poster in 1950 and
taught poster art in Warsaw from 1954 to 1956. In the same period he helped to plan
Polish stands and pavilions at international fairs. Turning to the cartoon film, he
shared the Silver Lion of the 1957 Venice Biennale for his Once Upon a Time and in the
same year won the Grand Prix at the Brussels World Fair with the film Dom. Since
then Lenica's films have brought him regular awards. He has also written and illustrated
a number of children's books and is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale.
An earlier article on his work appeared in Graphis 87. - Editor
1)—4) Curtain and three settings for Yolimbaa musical farce by Wilhelm Killmayer, first performed
in Wiesbaden in 1964.
It is as though we saw, through a glass darkly, mute and deformed
angels, waiting in a strange disguise for a chance to return to earth.
We witness the scene from the wrong side, as though through some
hidden peep-holean inexplicable, perplexing pantomime that is some
how deeply familiar. The figures hop, the limbs are articulated in jerky
movements. Enormously enlarged insects crawl past and look beyond
us with their huge, faceted eyes. Rank plant growths, rounded and soft
as the flesh of snails masks, leering faces, stones in which we see ghostly
featureswide, unseeing eyesbared brains that have turned to steel. A
quaking panopticum, now black, now white, flapping about our eyes.
The limbs dissolve from the figures and reform in new, unreasoning
patterns. A mechanistic reorganization transforms the biotope.
Jan Lenica was already well known when he first left his native Poland,
some years ago, to visit France and England. We were astonished to note
how effectively he had caught our attention and sympathies with his
posters and drawings.
Lenica's world is now in movement. The brush-stroke is no longer
perceptible. The large-scale poster has made way for the film montage.
The picture expands on every side towards the invisible. The elements
are superimposed to produce brief, even trivial associations which
simultaneously provoke unforeseeable reactions a woodcut of a pointing
hand, an angular figure composed of cut or torn scraps of drawings,
crushed potato cuts, men with moustaches and top hats in a conventional
'I instinctively sensed in the film a means of stepping up my imagina
tive powers, that's why I began to make films.' Lenica regards his films
as a continuation of the satirical drawings with which he made his first
public appearance in Szpilki at the age of seventeen. He makes no use
of the drawing movements to which we are accustomed from conven
tional cartoon films. His figures obey other, non physiological laws, as
though the movements of several autonomous drawings met in his films
in a sort of fugue.
We are confronted here by Lenica the musician, which by training he
is. The forms, movements and rhythms of his pictures embody functions
Photo Jea ;ip S