Steampunk obshchina: The weird peasant retro-future of Jakub Rozalski

Been a while since my last update. I’ve been busy finishing some overdue projects and pieces I had promised. Today’s post is a real treat, however: the weird sci-fi retro-future of the Polish artist Jakub Rozalski (alias Mr. Werewolf).

Rozalski is a bit of an odd duck, from what I can tell. A couple popular websites have featured his work recently, but none of them capture their true essence. Dangerous Minds ought to be commended, along with Hi-Fructose, for recognizing the obvious talent of Mr. Werewolf and publicizing it far and wide. But Martin Schneider’s write-up was disappointingly sub-par, in my opinion, well below DM’s usually high standards. So I thought I’d try my hand at it.

The digitally-constructed, high-resolution paintings that appear below are taken from Rozalski’s 1920+ series and his samizdat art book, World of Scythe. Others have noted the playful anachronisms that abound in these works, set somewhere in interwar Osteuropa across the forest-steppe. Sentinels scour the idyllic countryside — often in outline, as hazy silhouettes — menacing local muzhiks as they pass. Yet their presence seems strangely accepted by the inhabitants of this world, partisan and peasant alike. It’s almost as if they’ve become so inured to the horrors of war that the sight of these towering robots leaves them completely unfazed.

Wells’ War of the Worlds is clearly an influence here, with “mechs” adapted to the style of WWI landships and heavily-armored cars. Another article suggested Star Wars’ Battle of Hoth sequence, which came a little later. They’re not entirely off-mark. Rozalski also draws upon the iconic imagery of Terminator (1985) in his latest series commemorating Polish independence, the Warsaw uprising, and the Nazi invasion of 1939. Cyclopean cyborgs with burning red eyes don German helmets, tattered Wehrmacht uniforms hanging off their steely limbs.

Apart from all this, elements of fantasy enter into Rozalski’s steampunk obshchina as well. Grizzly bears are used as pack animals, and peasants smoke long, thin pipes that could be lifted straight from Tolkien, out of the world of Middle Earth. There is something about these paintings that strikes a chord with me, and apparently others. No one would mistake these paintings by Rozalski for great art, as if such a thing were possible in this day and age. But they do bring together Babel’s Red Cavalry and Final Fantasy VI, a winning formula if ever there was.

1920_uninvited_guests Jakub_Rozalski_Art_1920-hussars jakub-rozalski-17ix-s1s jakub-rozalski-1920-before-the-storm-100na50small jakub-rozalski-1920-camp-fire-smallnew jakub-rozalski-1920-dad-s-at-work-small1 jakub-rozalski-1920-dog-in-the-fog-small jakub-rozalski-1920-empty-mine-small jakub-rozalski-1920-farewell-110x70small jakub-rozalski-1920-folk-festival-smalln jakub-rozalski-1920-germany-01 jakub-rozalski-1920-going-homesmall jakub-rozalski-1920-headshot2-small jakub-rozalski-1920-hedge-betss1 jakub-rozalski-1920-hussars jakub-rozalski-1920-kosciuszko-01-small jakub-rozalski-1920-krakow-art1 jakub-rozalski-1920-like-a-wolf-among-sheep jakub-rozalski-1920-lumbering jakub-rozalski-1920-mech-on-the-field-100na70small jakub-rozalski-1920-most1-small jakub-rozalski-1920-on-the-road-70na50small jakub-rozalski-1920-orp-jagienka-final jakub-rozalski-1920-scythe-finall-27art jakub-rozalski-1920-strong-temptation-smalljakub-rozalski-1920-supply1 jakub-rozalski-1920-wojtek-01small-small jakub-rozalski-despised-warmongers
jakub-rozalski-foundations-of-the-empires jakub-rozalski-harvest-advantage-new-small jakub-rozalski-long-day1 jakub-rozalski-machine-over-muscles1a jakub-rozalski-mech-on-the-field-02 jakub-rozalski-player-mat-crimea-small jakub-rozalski-scythe-is-comings jakub-rozalski-warsaw-rising44-jr jakub-rozalski-westerplatte-jr-s jakub-rozalski-woodland-advantages1 landscape_1423316577-jakub-rozalski-1920-blokada-finall-small player_mat_Russia robotmist

5 thoughts on “Steampunk obshchina: The weird peasant retro-future of Jakub Rozalski

  1. Neat, though its has been done plenty of times over the last decade or so. Still it’s nice to see some geeky nerd culture on a blog otherwise devoted to esoteric fringe politics and dreary modernist architecture. Do you play Dust Tactics? Maybe worth checking out!

  2. Your text is very interesting but still you could dig deeper :)

    Rozalski’s 1920 series is based on important moments of polish history, mostly, but not only, on war with Bolshevicks, with its culminating point in battle of Warsaw in 1920. That war stopped Russian march towards Europe. Grizzly bears showed in Rozalskis work most of the time have the name ‘wojtek’ inscribed on panniers. Those are images of actual polish soldier, bear named Wojtek, who took part in WWII.

    „Hussars” shows polish cavalry from 17th century, revered as being best in Europe, brought to 20th century to fight with Bolshevicks.

    Also, I think ‘somewhere in interwar Osteuropa’ is too broad term. Actually ‘1920’ series shows mainly Polish countryside, which at that time consisted of lands of todays Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland – hence steppe and forests.

    BTW Tolkien took those long white pipes from 18th century Europe, at that time it was a very popular object.

    Have you checked this?
    ‘Just another day at work’ is artists impressions on Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher saga.

Leave a Reply