Nikolas Wereszczyński: Polish artist using Folklore as inspiration and escapism in difficult times
Triggered by World War II, a lot of Polish Immigrants came to the UK — over 900,000 to be precise. Since Poland’s admission into the European Union in 2003, there are now many young people who are building a new life, in a new place. Living in London, Nikolas Wereszczyński is one of these young people navigating the complexities of maintaining a Polish identity in a foreign country.
Nikolas’ art is beautiful introspection of his identity so far. Drawing upon folklore, “Polish legends” and Slavic Europe for his inspiration: “ having emigrated here at the age of 11. I consider myself to be a folklore artist - as I take a lot of inspiration from Polish culture and work to share it through my pieces, my 'Polish legends' series being an example.”
“Recently I've started becoming more and more aware of the spiritual and emotional aspect of my work and the way I connect with it on that level. A lot of my recent work has been focused on my internal impressions, memories and emotions, almost creating these half-real worlds.”
A particular highlight of Nikolas’ work is the incredible ‘Polish Legends’ series. “Ancient beliefs are a special interest of mine and a big inspiration in my work, however there is very little information and interest in this area in regards to Slavic Europe and especially Poland, so it was all extremely new and exciting for me. There's still a lot of things I'm trying to research and find out about, but before I knew it took over my work and had an incredible effect on me. It was the first time I found anything beautiful about where I've come from.”
Openly Queer, Nikolas has struggled with the current political situation in Poland: “I've often found myself quite disappointed by my own country and its politics in the past - on one hand you have a terribly corrupt and inefficient government fucking up the people, and on the other you have a large chunk of the population that still holds very backwards, discriminatory views.”
"LGBT themes, being an integral part of my life, are going to leak into my artwork eventually. I have made some pieces in the past that integrate the Polish LGBT community into our own folklore - such as "Wołchw", a depiction of a transgender shaman, or "Mokosz", a transgender depiction of Mother Earth. These were personal reflections about my own place in my own tradition as an LGBT Pole, and a way to include our community in our own history."
He continues: “so I think apart from food and family, any involvement in my own country usually ended up being quite disappointing or daunting. That was until I came across and started reading about the little that we do know about Poland's pre-Christian beliefs and the pre-Christian roots of many of our traditions.”
In recent years, Polish president Andrzej Duda — with the support of the Catholic Church — has launched a blistering attack on the LGBT+ communities of Poland. This has created a hostile environment for queer kids. Luckily, for those who are creative, art is a tool in building their own utopia.
“When I lay in bed after a productive day of working on art, I can feel my heart beaming, and I think to myself: I could do this all day every day"