Although I’ve encountered artists before who play with variations on the futurist/speculative/dystopian genres of visual art, I’ve never seen anything quite like the work of Jakub Rozalski, a concept artist based in Hamburg, Germany. Particularly stunning is his 1920+ series, in which Rozalski collides pastoral landscapes of early 20th century Poland with depictions of futuristic war machines embroiled in conflict with rival factions.
In writing, the concept sounds discordant and jarring, but Rozalski somehow manages not only to make the scenes feel vibrant and authentic, but also to evoke resonances with real history. Looking at these images, one can’t help but hear echoes of the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921, let alone the later occupations of the country by the Nazis and Soviets.
But the aggressors aren’t without opposition in Rozalski’s alternate history, and he even pays tribute to Wojtek, the famous bear who officially became an enlisted member of the Polish Armed Forces during their time in the Middle East and Italy.
The uniqueness of his work comes not only from the talent and technique that Rozalski clearly possesses, but also from his restraint and subtlety. The loose smears of color and texture along with the handling of light hearken back to Impressionism, a style rarely employed in genres like this. Helping to soften the shock of the harsh juxtaposition is the use of a muted color palette. As a result, the gargantuan mechs often feel like a continuation of the landscape rather than entities upon it. Another factor contributing to this phenomenon is Rozalski’s choice of where to draw your focus. Although you would think an image that depicts towering, weaponized suits of armor would feature them prominently, the emphasis is usually on the expressive, almost brooding landscapes.
Overall, his work benefits from maximal scope and concept paired with a minimalist approach to rendering detail. It’s what allows these scenes, which involve giant gun-toting robots, to feel so quiet and austere. You can almost hear the wind sweeping over the rough ground, pierced faintly by the sound of enormous pistons creaking in the damp air…
You can follow Jakub Rozalski on Twitter here.
To see more of his work, some of which delves further into the sci-fi and fantasy genres, click here.