Peter Pocs is a Hungarian master of the poster who has spent the better part of five decades establishing his own brand of visual language, within which political, social and creative views and ideas are clearly stated and continue to be relevant beyond the events that spawned them. Some of his most recognizable posters feature presculpted models and intricate compositions, but his trademark is the strong and active stance he takes on complex local and global issues, using wit, the grotesque and the occasional improvisation. Born in 1950 at the outset of Communism in Hungary, his career spans nearly 50 years, during which he was closely monitored by the regime with some of his work being banned in his homeland, while at the same time being in demand abroad and getting international exposure. In 2008 Pocs founded the Hungarian Poster-loneliness Association, one of the plausible explanations about how he feels within that genre, which has moved from the streets to galleries and the internet where Pocs currently continues to actively publish his visual statements against Putin and the war in Ukraine.
What are your current artistic interests? What are you working lately on?
I'm interested in everything, I'm open to everything. I design a poster for what stirs up, what touches me. I listen to my instincts. I am consciously instinctive. I feel at home in the field of culture. "In war, the muses are silent." Russian aggression, the immeasurable damage and suffering that comes with it, overrides everything. And Hungary is in a very bad place, pursuing a suicidal foreign and domestic policy. These are the current questions that need a poster.
Can you divide your work during the years into different periods and how would you call them? Which one of them is the most pleasant and which one was the most challenging one?
I have been designing posters for almost 50 years. It has thematic and stylistic periods. The stages are political, cultural, material and technical, but ultimately it was determined by my personalized options. I started with cultural, film, theater, festival, exhibition, concert posters. In the mid-80s, the posters had hidden political messages, censored towards the end of the decade, but without retort - I could already formulate direct political messages. In the worst case, the poster was banned and smashed. The democratic transition (which, in retrospect, was not successful), the market economy, free competition, broke down all previous obstacles, but also raised new obstacles. I didn't want to meet outsourcing, the expectations of a business "art director“. Change of regime, partisanship, merciless, unethical, greedy, corrupt groups, political reorganization, state-mafia pushed me toward political, social, educational and health problems.
Why is sometimes a poster saying more than a whole speech, article, play, etc.?
The poster does not want to say more, but something else and in a different way. The poster is a metaphor. The poster is an unexpected slap in the face.
The poster is the consciousness-changing "substance" that affects people the fastest. The poster is the biggest world language.
Is there a formula you use for extracting the essence of some subject and depict it as a single image?
The poster is a visual answer to verbal questions. Posters begin where words end.
Your work spans two very different periods in Hungarian history - before and after 1989. What did change the most in Hungarian design during that time?
Before the regime change, I designed posters duplicated by offset printing, mostly using classical tools, on orders from cultural institutions. In 1990, multimedia and trends arrived, politicians attacked us, and digital development broke through. The cultural poster is gone. Our public spaces are covered by commercial, misleading, lying political posters. Poster art went illegal, relegated to exhibition halls and the internet.
Were there negative consequences for you because of your political and social work?
Independent, free thinking causes a headache for all political systems. In Hungary, the so-called "THREE T's"-policy: FORBIDDEN (in Hungarian -Tiltott), TOLARATED (in Hungarian - Tűrt) and SUPPORTED (in Hungarian - Támogatott) are still valid today. I have never been supported by any system. In the communist time my posters were banned, destroyed, my passport confiscated, and the political police monitored me. Today's "democracy" is more sophisticated. My wife was fired from her job because of my political posters.
How do you explain to yourself artists who preffer to stay neutral to politics - local and global?
The role, intention, and operation of politics and art are different. The politician cannot avoid moral questions either, but the creative person has an increased moral responsibility. Local or global social issues are also political issues, and no poster designer can hide from them. According to my creed, these concerns and problems must be dealt with regardless of habitus or creed!
Is there something from the past that you miss and is there something about the future that scares you?
I was born in peace, we live in a state of war. I am horrified by human stupidity, credulity, aggressiveness, selfishness, lust for power, exploitation,...
You're actively posting anti war and anti Putin posters. Is this a popular position in Hungary nowadays?
Putin is a war criminal. Russia is an aggressor. The actions of the Hungarian government help a killing machine. Hungary is split into two, divided in several ways.
The thinking part understands my messages.
Are there other social subjects that currently drive your creativity?
I do not live with closed eyes or deaf ears. I respond to important events in the language of the poster.
Where are your favorite places to work and also to relax and let go of negative thoughts?
Right now we live in Budapest, Hungary, in the hilly the XII. district. Our house, our garden, my studio are suitable nests.
Which are the Hungarian contemporary authors or artists you follow with big interest?
Personally, I don't follow anyone. Images and information related to the genre flow through me. Some of them stick, most of them don’t.
Translated by Nasso Ruskov