A year ago I bought a book on Russian avant-garde film posters. It was one of those cheap collections that Taschen do so well. Thick, weighty, full of examples of how the early Soviet Union promoted movies in the mid to late 1920s.
It was a fascinating time in the history of the Soviet Union. There was still a degree of optimism the great socio-political experiment would succeed. Art was encouraged and flourished to some extent, albeit commercial art was centralised and planned. Perhaps railing against this centralisation, a highly distinct form of abstract art emerged. It used montage and illustration, subverting the traditions being established by Hollywood to create its own narrative.
This avant-garde movement lasted barely half a decade. In that time countless movie posters for home-grown and foreign import movies were created. Printed in their tens of thousands and spread across the land, few remain. Inevitable, perhaps, given they are no more than disposable adverts. Echoes of this art form continued to surface as the CCCP matured, corrupted and disintegrated.
It fascinates me to the point I experimented with the style. Rather than mimic, I’ve went back to first principles. I’ve look for my own short narratives and ways of twisting the source. Using my digital tools, I played with the techniques of montage and found ways of compensating for my rather poor drawing skills.
My early experiments were less than successful as they were still constrained by my linear thinking. I was also trying too hard to be too perfect. But part of the point with this form is it isn’t perfect. The posters were often put together quickly to meet release and production deadlines. Tales of receiving materials at 10pm with print deadlines of 5am the next morning seem common. While high in impact there are numerous defects to our photoshop trained eyes. I had to learn to accept these.
The pay-off is liberation. Working in abstraction is a highly creative way of working. It allows me to create images that are more honest. I can subvert and twist and explore. Adding a time pressure adds to the creativity. I can’t “waste” time perfecting the cut-out on a source image, I just have to keep moving forwards. A mistake has to be incorporated or worked around.
The results will not be to everyone’s taste (what art is?) but I’m happy with them. Happy enough that I shared what I created, happier that its finding a small band of fans.
Posters are available on my Redbubble Account.
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