our interview with Agata Dudek
Satyrykon: When in the mid 80’s Zygmunt Januszewski (born 1956) was invited to design the graphic layout of Satyrykon, he wrote a funny letter thanking for the “honour of being listed in the group of professionals” (we’ll come back to that later on) quoting flirtingly his wife: “You must have grown old enough to become the classic”. Participation in competition part of Satyrykon is a student period prehistory for you, the first female Grand Prix winner, our juror, and currently, the poster author. Have you got the feeling of becoming “Satyrykon classic”?
Agata Dudek: Honestly speaking I can’t find myself in the role of a classic . I haven’t been in illustration art long enough to call myself that way, but it is indeed quite pleasant that Ela Pietraszko has accepted me as a layout author. Satyrykon itself has become a classic! Just a look at Satyrykon posters collection is enough to have no doubt. Influential figures of Polish poster art, graphics and illustrators have taken all their efforts to deal with something really hard to illustrate and to decorate with graphic form. Though it seems so simple, seems easy and funny, you need to be very open for joke and humour to create the design of pretty universal character and reasonably clear message. I’m with Satyrykon with all my heart so all the more I appreciate the fact that my posters will hang at this year’s edition in Legnica.
In one of you interviews (and you gave quite some) I’ve read that one of your best childhood works was, let me quote as it is quite nice: “The portrait of Jesus of Nazareth as the synthesis of cubism and Egyptian canon. It has got doubled parts of the face and a lovely bristle all over his head.” Isn’t that the idea you took from your lumber room this year? Our director says you are “laughing at Picasso” in that poster, and I wonder if you aren’t being a bit sarcastic about the old Satyrykon. Or, speaking seriously now, is satire (or Satyrykon) such an avant-garde which is transforming itself into pop culture? And who’s got many faces now, you or Satyrykon?
Well, the design you mentioned is indeed a classic of mine … Granny Ann keeps it in her drawer up today. What made me draw it that way then… I don’t know. The idea for this year’s poster appeared actually last year and has been explored, slightly modified, digested and finally spit out by me in this form. The motif of the head, the bony face, as professor Januszewski would have put it, has been really attractive to me recently and I’ve been studying it through giving it different attributes, fillings etc. On the one hand, I like how universal and well recognisable it is, and on the other hand, it’s lovely to give it newer and newer meanings by adding different elements. As for Picasso – I’m not making fun of him as I adore Picasso and it is extremely pleasurable for me to deconstruct and put the world upside down. Although I didn’t use to like surrealism, quite honestly, I am one of its biggest advocates at present. And as far as pop culture is concerned, let’s agree it is the place where I live, so something unexpected just must happen on the junction of these two worlds .
Every viewer of your work is impressed by the amount, diversity and pace of it. As one of your fans noticed, in case of Dudek the term “the latest” quickly becomes out-dated one. Does quantity transform into quality? Referring to you, one might have really think that way. What are you up to right now?
Oh, I hope the quantity turns into quality . I always try to make it right, not bland, and I have always taken the fast pace of my work as advantage. There are projects which hang behind me for quite long months though and it’s hard to finish them. Currently, we’re finishing out and releasing with Gosia Nowak at Acapulco Studio another book projects. We’re waiting for the premier of Saint Wojciech bloody story and completing our presentation for the typographic and poster conference PLASTER in Toruń. A lot of work, so no time for too much talk.
Rumour has it, your paintings are born out of mess. But you also admit you like to have the things under control. Then what is the relation between the mess and order?
The mess on a drawing page is a good thing, but mess in my head and all around has a negative effect on me. Unfortunately, I’m a kind of person who would not sit down to work in a messy environment with things scattered around. I must take things out, sort out, place rightly and only then I’m ready to settle down to work. Therefore, I’m rather total opposite of a relaxed and distanced artist whose workshop is cluttered with all sort of things and he spontaneously creates new project out of them. I need order in my space and then can make a mess on my page .
You also used to come to Satyrykon “for social” reasons many times, the trace of which can clearly be observed in your poster. I noticed you often make posters for events (and initiatives) which you know and support. Is it easier or harder to work in such cases? Or maybe you just accept only such orders? Don’t you feel tempted to succumb to “well-known and liked” client? Does poster creator have to succumb to the client (do you give in?), or is it better to resign?
I sometimes have a chance to design something for the musicians I know or for the specific events. It’s quite nice as there come to me people who feel my “climate” and trust me, making it possible for me to let my imagination loose and treat such a realisation as a kind of author’s idea rather than an commissioned work. Frankly speaking, it’s hard to resist the “well-known and liked” and I guess it’s an issue all the creators have a problem with or knows something about. Yet in this case, I have quite a good balance as I try to make my book projects to be a little different. From time to time, I modify my style, I like the new things, new solutions, so I do not feel the routine or repetition in what I’m doing. In the ideal world of perfect relations between the commissioner and the contractor there should be balanced proportions between the imposition and the succumbing. The commissioner likes to have a say as s/he’s the one who “pays and demands” and the contractor operates on the principle “client’s always right” – but, please, “trust me, I know what I’m doing” . However, we don’t live in the world of ideal relations, and succumbing too much, being dictated what to do, may result in problem with your reflection in the mirror, so all in all it’s better to resign in such a case I guess.
You occupy yourself with lots of different things, but still declare that above all, you love your illustrator’s job. It’s said you’ve found your way to illustration workshop because you noticed that all your work is of that character. Does it include your poster creation? What’s your recipe for a good poster? It doesn’t seem to be minimalism. Quite contrary indeed – your posters successfully, contrarily, innovatively and passionately fight against our “minimalistic” routines…
I found my way to Illustration Workshop as I took Professor’s remarks as offence and I declared I won’t let it go (as a matter of fact ) But I’m a hundred per cent illustrator and all my projects have such character, no matter if they’re posters, book works, t-shirt patterns etc. I don’t have a recipe for a good poster and I don’t know if it anyhow relates to “minimalism” or wealth of form. Poster is a very dynamic medium and I’ve got the impression it’s a kind of “free style – nothing’s forbidden”. I like both, the ones with limited means and the ones which clearly present the horror vacui rule. The most important is that they should attract peoples’ attention, and then elicit laughter or any other sort of emotion.
Although you’ve been repeatedly awarded since the beginning of your career, it’s clear that you’ve been changing your style a lot as years went by (which you admit). It seems children book illustrations and later press cartoons were the kind of breaking points for you. Could we suggest that children illustration teaches how to draw for adults?
I think I no longer divide what is for adults and what for children. I am an adult myself but I love the “childish illustrations”, I just adore the things which one could easily call naïve, strange or trashy. The style has to keep developing in some sense. I wouldn’t stand doing the same thing all the time. You need to challenge yourself, either in content or in form, otherwise you become just a one effect specialist and it’s wonderful as long as the trend and the demand last – you’re the winner, if they stop – sorry, you’re out! There are some rare authors who manage to function playing just one note but I tend to look for more sounds and I like to play more tunes .
Paweł Pawlak said he once “had to hang a ‘memento’ over his drawing board: the catalogue of details, postures and means I keep repeating almost automatically”, (and adds it didn’t help much though). You don’t seem to have a problem quoting, and what’s more, you play with it in quite a fascinating way. One can hardly accuse you of “copying”. So, is there anything you’ve been trying to avoid recently in your works?
Well, I’m surely fed up with the heads, I’ve had enough of them . As a matter of fact I haven’t thought about it but working with Gośka helps a lot. Seeing me sketching and creating, she can come and say it’s nice but I’ve already used it here and here, so you need to come up with something different. And then I sight deeply but keep on thinking .
Today’s artistic posters are frequently completed with author’s assumption they’re for “gallery use”, for poster lovers, or maybe even for the generations to come, or just as a form of “mental exercise”. The big wall covered with them is rather out of question nowadays, yet you still, in this quite demanding time, can be sure your poster will prove its value. It draws attention and emanates with such a positive, joyful energy. Apparently, although you don’t deal with graffiti, you like operating in that space. Is street one of your elements?
I wouldn’t call it my element as operating in public space is just a fraction of my activity. However, undoubtedly I find this form of acting interesting and very energetic. On top of it, it’s a formidable way of spending time outdoors with friends .