While you might not know his name, you’ve almost certainly seen the work of Polish illustrator Pawel Kuczynski. Known for political cartoons that stick in your mind as much as your social media feed, Kuczynski’s work is constantly circulating Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram. Yesterday he tapped into the weariness the world is feeling with Pokémon Go in a new work, depicting Pikachu, bright and yellow and happy, perched on the bent neck of a dronelike mobile gamer. The title is simply, Control.
With over 30 million views and a half million likes and shares from his page alone, Kuczynski has once again struck a nerve. The illustrator’s other works address issues as diverse as authoritarianism, party politics, cruelty to animals, and social media addiction. Karolina Prymlewicz, curator of the Museum of Caricature and Cartoon Art in Warsaw, describes Kuczynski as, “deeply involved and uncompromising in his political judgements and social diagnoses. He exploits the aesthetics of surrealism, makes skilful use of visual metaphors… and black humor is definitely his element.” This combination appears to be something like social media wildfire, and is completely present in his new colored pencil and watercolor illustrations. Contextualized by the sensational stories of distracted teens being hit by cars, a girl finding a dead body, and implied government surveillance, the weariness in Kuczynski drawing is just as applicable to the game’s presence in the news cycle as its own addictive qualities.
The artist responds modestly to the huge response his drawing has received. His works are always based on observation to political and social conflicts plaguing Poland, the internet, and the world. It was only a matter of time before he reacted to Pokémon Go: “It’s a hot subject now. It’s not my best drawing and it’s not my best idea. It’s just my response to the big success of Pokémon,” Kuczynski tells The Creators Project.
As the app deploys in more and more countries, it’s projected to surpass Twitter in daily active users, and more mixed-reality games are likely to emerge in its wake. That said,Pokémon Go hasn’t conquered everybody’s hearts and minds yet—Kuczynski included. “I don’t play Pokémon Go,” he reveals. “I haven’t got a smartphone. Maybe now, after I did a drawing, I’ll have to check out this game?”
See more of Kuczynski’s haunting works below.