Jakub Różalski’s Alternate History of Europe
#photography & visual arts
small, Jakub Różalski’s Alternate History of Europe, Warsaw 44 by Jakub Różalski, illustration commemorating the 71 anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising (01.08.1944 ) photo: www.artstation.com, jakub-rozalski-warsaw-rising44-jr.jpg
Mechs and demonic Nazi robots set in rural WWII landscapes have made Polish artist Jakub Różalski famous. His works have even sparked interest in Hollywood, where he was asked to participate in the upcoming King Kong movie.
His Favourite Things
Różalski grew up in the Polish countryside of his paintings. A fan of 19th-century painters like Chełmoński and Gierymski, the 34-year-old artist often gives a classic flavour to his works, even though nowadays he creates most of them using a graphic tablet and only occasionally uses oil and acrylic paints. His aesthetics often contrast with his subjects: for instance, Kościuszko Squadron depicts two shepherds in traditional outfits watching giant mechs marching in the distance. This painting is part of a series entitled 1920+, which presents an alternative history of early 20th century Europe and is full of such juxtapositions. The series was inspired by the Polish-Soviet war that occurred in 1919-1921, which the painter considers a conflict of great importance to world history. Like many others, he believes that, had Poland not stopped the march of the Bolsheviks back then, the whole European continent might have become communist. But why the mechs? As a youngster Różalski loved the Star Wars films, which he watched on VHS tapes. The Empire Strikes Back scene made a particularly lasting impression on him - a battle fought with giant robots. On top of his passion for history, Różalski is interested in sci-fi and fantasy as well. The 1920+ series is therefore a combination of his favourite things.
Going to the Office
Różalski has also put together an alternative version of the history of World War II, often featuring his trademark Nazi-bots. However he doesn’t always limit himself to painting European history. Many of his paintings are fantasy-themed, like Just Another Day at Work which revolves around the fictitious character Geralt of Rivia, better-known as the Witcher. In the paintings from this series the hero, a professional monster slayer from a fantasy world invented by the Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, is shown confronting deadly imaginary creatures. The ironic title reflects the painter’s view that to Geralt, killing monsters for a living must seem about as exciting as going to the office usually does for a white-collar worker. His works have won admirers the world over as evidenced by the 1920+ series which has been favourably reviewed on many foreign websites. The painter’s online gallery has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times. Additionally, Różalski, whose works were on display in a Warsaw gallery earlier this year, is scheduled to have exhibitions in Germany and Italy.
One of Różalski’s most enthusiastic fans is Jamey Stegmaier, founder of the Saint-Louis-based board game company Stonemaier Games. After seeing the Pole’s paintings, he contacted the artist about creating a game set in the alternate world presented in 1920+, and the painter agreed. They’re currently working on a strategic board game called Scythe, set to be published in English in 2016. The talents of the painter were also noticed by Hollywood. His works made such an impression on the creators of the upcoming major American production Kong: Skull Island that he received an offer to collaborate with them. Różalski accepted this proposal and has already finished doing his part. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to see the gargantuan gorilla in some rustic landscapes…
For more about Jakub Różalski, visit https://www.artstation.com/artist/jakubrozalski
Written by Marek Kępa, Autumn 2015