Jacek Sroka

Scholastic knowledge, unbelievable ‘natural histories’, travelers’ tales of people inhabiting distant territories, remains of ‘prehistoric’ animals, more or less imaginary legends and stories stirred the imagination of medieval man. To understand this epoch better, one cannot ignore the picture of daily life with its horrendous tortures which served both as a form of entertainment and a warning. There were also spectacular knightly tournaments, elegant prostitutes from luxurious brothels, processions of whippers, fairs enlivened with shows from actors, jugglers and purposefully deformed cripples, the presence of dignified patricians and members of thieves’ and beggars’ guilds prowling between them.

More than any other, this Church dominated epoch was rich in amazing visions of Paradise as well as tortures so hideous in their cruelty inflicted on the damned left at the mercy of the hellish tormentors, which were fantastic creations that originated in the incredibly fertile imagination of an artist. The incessant struggle between good and evil, beauty and ugliness enriched by artists’ inventiveness based on knowledge and observation was a powerful source of inspiration.

Jacek Sroka is close to medieval masters with his rich and astonishing imagination. His quick wit, innumerable and diverse interests, powerful sense of humor, subtle irony and ability to keep distance affect his specific way of ‘seeing’ and describing the world. A particularly significant feature of Sroka’s artistic work is exactly the ability to keep distance. Thanks to it he avoids theatrical pomp, soppy sentimentalism, false moralizing and tedious preaching, instead making room for an unrestrained game of imagination in which fantasy is subordinated to an intelligent and peculiar sense of humor. With his paintings Sroka does not want to undermine the existing order of things, but shows the world from its different, less official side. For that reason with surprise and a grain of salt do we look at the body of ‘Ophelia’ nibbled by fish, psychopath doggies with the most obnoxious one guarding his wife’s virtue, a horse with Don Quixote on its back levitating in the kitchen, ‘The Magnificent Seven’, a Church official playing a childish game and a daydreaming beauty in a swimming suit sitting on the beach with worms living in the soil whirling below her.

In Sroka’s paintings there is room for anything: a man-machine, creepy animals, miners yielding coal, scenes from family life, myths, Masonic rituals, larvae turning into insects and joyful grave diggers. Everything that has been seen, read, or heard fuels Sroka’s imagination and his intelligence, sense of humor and sensitivity together allow him to create amazing images of the world.

Jacek Sroka was born 1957 in Cracow. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow and was a teaching assistant there from 1981 to 1989. He began his artistic career as a print maker and his art includes painting, graphic art and drawing. He has received several awards, including: Graphica Atlantica in Reykjavik, Iceland (1987); Grand Prix, 4 Print Biennale in Vaasa, Finland (1987); Grand Prix, Print Biennale in Seoul, Korea (1987); “I. Trybowski” Prize, International Print Biennale in Cracow, Poland (1994); “W. Wojtkiewicz” Society of Artists Prize in Cracow, Poland (2001) and others.

Jacek Sroka will he honored by large exhibition of paintings and prints in the National Museum (Muzeum Narodowe) in Kraków (Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie). The opening reception is March 7th, at 6 pm and the exhibition runs from March 7th - May 4th, 2008.

Dominik Rostworowski

Past Exhibition - Beneath the Surface, June 2006
Past Exhibition - Polish National Museum, March 2008