Polish artist Paulina Olowska took me to her show at Galeria ZPAFGaleria ZPAF, a small gallery in Krakau (South of Poland), where she displayed a selection of posters designed by Jerzy Kolecki (*1925) in the 1970s and 1980s. They advertised plays by the Rabcio-Zdrowotek Puppet Theatre in Rabka, a small town south of Krakau. On the occasion, Olowska published a set of postcards reproducing the posters, wrapped into an interview with the artist. A short excerpt:
Paulina Olowska: In 1954, you graduated with a degree in painting from the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts. How did you come to start creating stage design and posters for a Puppet Theatre in Rabka?
Jerzy Kolecki: My plan for life didn’t include theatre. I came to Rabka with my art school diploma in search of work—and I found it in the Rabcio-Zdrowotek Puppet Theatre as an actor. I travelled with the troupe, in the back of a truck, even in the freezing cold. In those days, the Theatre didn’t have its own performance space yet. The building was just a studio and two rooms: for the administration and the management. The performance spaces were sanatoriums and school gyms. The theatre, a theatrette really, had been created for the kids undergoing therapy in Rabka. In the bone tuberculosis ward, the attendants would arrange the beds and lay the children in the plaster corsets on them.
What kind of dolls played in those performances?
In the early years, they were marionettes—a very difficult technique. We’d built constructions to screen the actors from view. These days, the technique is no longer camouflaged from the viewer. We hid all that from those kids. They just saw the moving puppet.
Had you already started designing posters then?
When I started working for the theatre in 1953, the posters were being printed in Nowy Targ. The same typeface was used for election posters and for theatre posters. I believed the latter needed to stand out in some way.