Andrzej Pągowski in 1989

From 1989, an interview with Andrzej Pągowski on his film poster work:

Maria Rajczuk-Żukowska: In biographical notes about you, one can read, ‘Received a diploma in the poster studio of Waldemar Świerzy’. What was it that Świerzy passed on to you, if anything?

Andrzej Pągowski: Courage. It is very important that one is not afraid of work.

Is anybody trying to imitate your work at present?

Pągowski: Supposedly I am responsible for the disgusting lettering that has lately spread so profusely in Polish posters. It is true that I was one of the first to use it. I suspect that a large group of friends decided that if I was allowed to use it, then so could they! I am very worried about that – I was never very good with letters. Perhaps one day I will have someone cooperating with me who will do all the written content for me. In general, though, it is easier to copy one or other solutions from my posters than to imitate Pągowski as a whole. I change my approach to subjects too often to create my own ‘school’.

Original from beginning to end…

Pągowski: Don’t exaggerate! I believe that art is one great big melting pot from which we all draw. If at some point I need collage, pop-art, hyper-realistic or any other solutions, I will not ponder whether it is allowed. Some things have already been put to test and there is no time to begin from zero or force open doors that have already been opened – it’s a waste of time. In fact all of the art world behaves in that way.

And in general everything has already happened in art.

Pągowski: In some way, yes. If I were to define what distinguishes my works, I would say that I consistently apply the principle of tensions. Each of my compositions is a central composition, the main tension appears in the middle and the lettering is placed at the top. Yes, I do have some sort of my own pattern of standard of poster, but each time I apply it in a totally different way. For me the most important thing is the idea.

You are perhaps the artist with the greatest number of awards. What have you got out of that?

Pągowski: What have I got out of that? When a presenter on television announces that Pągowski has received an award in Hollywood, I write it down in my biography and reinforce my belief that what I do makes sense. But I do not work with the notion of competing in a race with others. If a film director asks me to design a poster for his film I do it. If, though, he supplies me with a topic and I know that there will be a competition – I resign.

The film poster was not your chosen artistic discipline from the outset of your work. Earlier you were involved in graphic design for journals and made designs for book covers.

Pągowski: I believe I belong to the world of advertising. It is the client who decides what I do and how I do it. I gave up a number of other smaller activities to focus mostly on the poster. That is what resulted in my name being associated in the film world with the poster. I receive the largest number of orders from filmmakers. And apart from that I truly enjoy cinema. I experience each film emotionally and intellectually. I am scared or moved, like every member of the audience, even if I watch the film just on my own at a special screening.

Have you ever made a poster for a film without watching it?

Pągowski: Only once.

How do you work?

Pągowski: Spontaneously.

What do you think about the advertising campaigns for Polish films?

Pągowski: They do not exist. We will soon rebel and stop making posters for Polish films, if they are going to pay us at the same rate as now (at present, the fee for a poster amounts to 150 thousand, whereas the costs of making the film are around 400 million). I believe that producers commencing the making of the film should have at the outset calculated the cost of advertising. Then the graphic artist would have the time to prepare the opening credits and design the poster, which should be made on the set of the film. I have managed to make that happen several times. When, for example, making Roman Załuski’s film ‘Oh Charles’ I came up with the idea of designing a photographic poster which included all of the film characters. That was a good poster. And it sold extremely well.

In the West the film posters most often include the heads of the actors?

Pągowski: It would be a mistake, if that happened here. We would throw overboard the whole artistic achievements of the Polish poster, together with its poetic dimension and literary associations. In my view the best solution would be the issue of two posters – one which would be ambitious in terms of graphic art, and the second – a poster for purely advertising purposes.

— (via Ekran #45 (1989) / Pągowski: Illustrating Films)