Architect uses classic works of art to highlight ‘blight of garish’ billboard advertising
Prompted by his distaste for the use of garish outdoor billboards, a landscape architect has led the backlash against the prevalence of this form of advertising with a series of paintings aimed at shocking the public with their message.
Using the most recognizable works from the canon of Chełmoński, Gierymski and Kossak among others, Wojciech Januszczyk used 15 famous landscape paintings as the basis of his project before adding a plethora of billboards to these classics.
Speaking to TFN, Januszczyk said: “They present a picture of the reality that surrounds us in Poland on a daily basis. The image of these billboards has become so commonplace that we no longer really see them, and instead pass them without emotion.”
It is this apathy that Januszczyk hopes to combat.
“I started wondering why we are destroying a country we profess to love so much? We fought so hard to get where we are, and yet here we are decimating our beloved rural landscape with adverts for garage repair or bargain chicken.”
To raise awareness of this, the Lublin-based architect opted to use the works of Poland’s most treasured artists. “I thought that because we’ve stopped seeing what’s around us, maybe it would jolt us into action if we saw it through the paintings that we celebrate so much.”
Best-known for their idyllic representations of Polish rural life, the choice of painters was a decision laced with purpose.
“I picked their most famous images so as to startle the public when they were analysed a little deeper,” says Januszczyk. “These were the best painters in their genre, so I wanted to use their works to demonstrate how we’re destroying our world and to highlight that we shouldn’t just care for our cultural treasures but also our natural ones as well.”
Though debuting in 2017, Januszczyk’s re-imagining of the classics has continued to gain traction and air-time. Travelling from town-to-town, the series has captivated the public and continued to gain momentum as its reputation grows.
Displayed in such cities as Gdańsk, Warsaw, Lublin and Puławy – sometimes even twice – Januszczyk hopes that these works cause people to think.
“I want the people who are putting up all these billboards to realize that no-one is even looking at their ads anymore,” says Januszczyk. “Maybe some will realise that because of this exhibition.”
Closer to home, he is hopeful that the exhibition has also had an effect.
“Though the idea was born earlier, it was realized under the patronage of the Mayor of Lublin,” he says. “Like many other cities, Lublin too struggles with the problem of both legal and illegal billboards, but I think that thanks to this collaboration city authorities were able to reflect more fully on the topic.”
Spearheading Fundacja Krajobrazy (The Landscape Foundation), Januszczyk’s art project is part of an over-arching mission to promote and support the development of landscape architecture whilst simultaneously encouraging good practices relating to the care of green and public spaces.
“Right now we’re working on a project titled ‘Healthy City’ that aims to showcase the technological solutions that can be used to help adapt cities to face up to climate change,” he says.
“That means educating people on how to plant large trees or to unseal concrete surfaces correctly or create facilities capable of water retention.”
Often attempting to weave art and culture into their protection of nature, the foundation’s team has already implemented two flagship projects this year by way of the InGarden Show Gardens Festival and the Land Art EtnoMłyn Festival.
More is to come with Januszczyk citing “the biodiversity of city space” as the next challenge to face.
In the meantime, however, praise continues to accumulate for his billboard crusade with the project enjoying a fresh wave of press in recent days, not least after being highlighted by the lifestyle bible WhiteMad.
Though the source of enduring fascination, Januszczyk is clear that there is still much that needs to change: “We need to change our mentality and our approach to social responsibility,” he says.
“What more? It’s imperative we educate decision makers – they need to see that it is the quality of space that has overriding value and that their considerations go beyond money and business.”