Engrossing exhibition explores role of graphic art in supporting 1980’s Solidarity movement
A fascinating exhibition exploring the role graphic art played in building and sustaining Poland’s Solidarity movement during the 1980s is to go on show at Oxford University.
One of the largest opposition movements of the 20th century, Solidarity was the leading collective force opposing Communism in Poland during the 80s.
Forced to conduct much of its operations underground, it created a rich visual culture of resistance through designs and logos that spoke to people from all walks of society.
Held at The Barn Gallery, at Oxford University’s St John’s College, the exhibition entitled ‘Lost Treasures of Revolution: The Graphics of Solidarity 1980-89’ will include 25 Solidarity Posters reproduced from the collection at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as original badges and rarely seen underground stamps.
Among them, notable examples of posters include Solidarity’s famous logo poster from 1980 designed by Jerzy Janiszewski and an election poster from 1989.
Complementing the posters, an array of interesting stamp designs include one from 1983 depicting a crowned eagle, the emblem of pre-communist Polish sovereignty, trying to take flight.
Another from 1982 depicts the Black Madonna of Częstochowa mourning miners killed by state violence and negligence, another shows Solidarity as a five year old from 1985 while another links Solidarity with the Polish resistance during WWII through the graffiti symbols for ‘Fighting Poland’ and ‘Fighting Solidarity’.
The exhibition’s curator Catherine Flood said: “As well as famous poster designs, we are delighted to be showing a collection of underground postage stamps and graphic ephemera that provide vivid evidence of Solidarity’s multi-dimensional appeal in the 1980s.
“Most of these items were produced at a grassroots community level on small underground presses by designers and ordinary citizens working with few resources to create a new democratic beginning.
“As issues of social inequality and alienation are thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic, it is timely to reflect on the means by which social movements can bring people together through collective action.”
The exhibition has been organised as part of the Annual Conference of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict (CRIC) held each year at the University of Oxford and whose topic this year is the post-pandemic world through the lens of ‘Solidarity’.
Speaking about the event, the Director of CRIC, Lord Alderdice said: “Just over forty years ago, the formation of the Solidarność trade union in Poland heralded major societal and geopolitical change not only in Poland but around the world, including the Peace Processes in South Africa, Israel/Palestine, and Northern Ireland.
“Under our conference theme - Beyond COVID – Solidarity or Fragmentation we will explore what can we learn from past events about the processes of major societal change as well as what we may expect is possible post-COVID?”
The exhibition ‘Lost Treasures of Revolution: The Graphics of Solidarity 1980-89’ has been organised in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and St John’s College, University of Oxford and will be open to the public from the 22 September -8 October 2021 with free admission.