Ah, to visit Yerkaland in the fall, where the clouds have a strange surrealist sheen, and the trees a soft otherworldly glow. If you’ve never heard of the imaginary universe of Jacek Yerka, you’re in for a treat. You may have seen bits and pieces of his work around the interweb but perhaps not had the pleasure of browsing the full breadth of his work. Yerka is a contemporary Polish painter, rather overlooked in our opinion, whose surrealist canvases offer a much needed moment of escape these days…
Pretty dreamy right? The artist cites the meticulousness of Flemish paintings as a huge source of inspiration for his strange worlds, which are also heavily inspired by the Polish countryside.
“The pastoral atmosphere of the Polish countryside provides a solid, mimetic foundation for his art … However, it is his own uniquely evocative dreams that limn the complex, often arcane imagery of his work.”
The influences of Dutch and Renaissance painters like Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch are everywhere. So are the morphing masses of Rene Magritte, and the lesser-known Belgian Surrealist, Raoul Servais (who made a seriously insane animated movie).
We’re especially big fans of his whimsical, 4-sided works:
On a more intimate level, Yerka’s work looks to memories of, say, his grandmother’s kitchen for inspiration. The every day items and settings of his life – past and present – that become a springboard for Surrealist expression.
Art was a form of catharsis for Yerka before it became a full-time career. The artist says he had a rough childhood in Toruń, Poland, and describes his school years as a “grey, sometimes horrifying reality.” Rather than physically fight to fend off bullies, he’d make biting sketches. When he studied art formally, he also tended to go against the grain of his teachers’ advice to develop his own style.
Yerka still lives in his hometown of Toruń, and outside of Poland has exhibited his work in Germany, Monaco, France, and the United States. And while shipping costs outside of Poland are hefty due to covid-19 at the moment, you can purchase high quality prints by the artist online.
He also has a fantastic book, Mind Fields, which was originally conceived as a collection of his paintings, but after approaching Harlan Ellison to write the foreword, Yerka was so overcome by his words that it became a collaborative work and Ellison penned a short story for the book.