The Surreal World of Jonas Burgert: An Exploration of the Human Psyche

The Surreal World of Jonas Burgert: An Exploration of the Human Psyche

Jonas Burgert, born in 1969 in West Berlin, stands as a distinguished figure in contemporary art, celebrated for his large-scale, vividly coloured paintings. His oeuvre delves deep into the human psyche, exploring profound themes of existence, mortality, and the surreal. Burgert’s unique style, marked by intense colour palettes and intricate narratives, has secured him a significant place in the modern art world. His works invite viewers on a journey through fantastical realms, encouraging them to reflect on the deeper aspects of human existence and the complexities of the mind.

Early Life and Education

Jonas Burgert’s journey into the art world began in Berlin, a city with a rich cultural heritage and a complex history. Born and raised in this vibrant metropolis, Burgert was exposed to a diverse array of artistic influences from an early age. Berlin, with its dynamic art scene and historical significance, provided a fertile ground for his burgeoning creativity.

Burgert pursued formal education in the arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. Here, he was immersed in a rigorous curriculum that emphasised both technical skill and conceptual development. The Academy’s environment, known for fostering innovative thinking and artistic experimentation, allowed Burgert to refine his techniques and develop his distinctive style. After graduating, he studied under Professor Dieter Hacker at the Berlin University of the Arts, further shaping his artistic exploration of absurdities in the human condition.

During his time at the Academy, Burgert was deeply influenced by classical painters such as Hieronymus Bosch and Francisco Goya. The complex, often dark imagery in Bosch’s fantastical scenes and Goya’s haunting portrayals of human nature resonated with Burgert, shaping his own artistic vision. These influences are evident in Burgert’s work, where he combines historical references with contemporary themes to create pieces that are both timeless and relevant.

In addition to his classical influences, Burgert was also inspired by the diverse cultural and artistic movements present in Berlin during his formative years. The city’s rich tapestry of street art, avant-garde performances, and underground exhibitions contributed to his eclectic style, characterised by a blend of the traditional and the modern, the grotesque and the beautiful.

Burgert’s early works reflect a young artist experimenting with form and content, exploring various mediums and techniques. These formative experiences laid the groundwork for his later works, which would come to be defined by their scale, detail, and thematic depth. As he transitioned from student to professional artist, Burgert began to establish his place within the contemporary art scene, setting the stage for his future successes and contributions to the art world.

This early period of exploration and education was crucial in shaping Jonas Burgert’s artistic identity. It provided him with the skills, knowledge, and inspiration needed to embark on his journey into the surreal and complex world of his own creation, inviting audiences to explore the depths of the human psyche alongside him.

Artistic Style and Contemporary Art Themes

Jonas Burgert’s artistic style is both distinctive and deeply evocative, marked by an intense use of colour and a meticulous attention to detail. His large-scale paintings often present a chaotic yet controlled universe, where the surreal and the real coexist in a complex interplay. This unique blend of elements invites viewers to immerse themselves in his work and discover the multiple layers of meaning embedded within.

A defining characteristic of Burgert’s style is his vibrant colour palette. His use of bright, often contrasting colours creates a visual impact that is both striking and unsettling. These colours serve to highlight the emotional intensity of his scenes, drawing viewers into the psychological depth of his work. The vivid hues not only enhance the visual appeal but also reinforce the themes of life, death, and existence that pervade his paintings.

Thematically, Burgert’s work delves into the human condition, exploring existential questions and the complexities of the human psyche. His paintings often depict surreal, dream-like scenes populated by a myriad of characters and creatures, each contributing to the overarching narrative. These figures, both grotesque and beautiful, are rendered in painstaking detail, their expressions and postures revealing a range of emotions from despair to ecstasy.

Burgert’s compositions are rich with symbolism and allegory. He draws inspiration from historical and mythological sources, blending these with contemporary themes to create works that are both timeless and relevant. This fusion of past and present, reality and fantasy, allows him to explore universal themes of existence, identity, and mortality in a way that resonates with modern audiences.

One of the central themes in Burgert’s work is the exploration of the human psyche. His paintings often portray inner conflicts and psychological states, using surreal imagery to represent the complexities of the mind. The characters in his works are frequently caught in moments of transformation or crisis, symbolising the perpetual struggle for self-understanding and meaning.

Another significant aspect of Burgert’s art is his depiction of the grotesque. By incorporating elements of horror and the macabre, he challenges viewers to confront the darker aspects of human nature and existence. This use of the grotesque serves to highlight the fragility of life and the inevitability of death, themes that are central to his exploration of the human condition.

In summary, Jonas Burgert’s artistic style and themes are characterised by a profound exploration of the human psyche, expressed through vibrant colours, meticulous detail, and a blend of surreal and real elements. His works invite viewers to delve into the depths of their own consciousness, reflecting on the existential questions that define the human experience. Through his unique vision and masterful technique, Burgert has created a body of work that is both visually captivating and intellectually stimulating, solidifying his place as a significant figure in contemporary art.

Major Works and Solo Exhibitions

Jonas Burgert’s career is marked by an impressive array of major works and exhibitions that have cemented his reputation as a leading figure in contemporary art. His paintings, often monumental in scale, are notable not only for their size but also for the depth and complexity of their narratives. His solo exhibition ‘Sinn frisst‘ at the Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck showcased his artistic universe through monumental paintings from February 16 to August 16, 2020.

One of Burgert’s most celebrated works is “Zeitlaich,” a colossal canvas that epitomises his unique blend of the grotesque and the beautiful. This piece features a myriad of figures, each meticulously detailed, engaged in various acts that seem to straddle the line between dream and reality. The vibrant colours and intricate composition draw viewers into a world that is at once chaotic and harmonious, reflecting the complexities of human existence. In 2008, Burgert had a solo exhibition at the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art, further establishing his presence in the international art scene.

Another significant work, “Hitting the ground,” showcases Burgert’s ability to blend the surreal with the palpable. This painting presents a scene filled with tension and movement, capturing a moment of crisis or transformation. The characters, caught in mid-action, seem to emerge from and dissolve into the vivid background, creating a sense of fluidity and impermanence that is central to Burgert’s exploration of existential themes. His solo exhibition ‘Ein Klang Lang’ at Tang Contemporary Art in Hong Kong in 2019 highlighted his international reach and recognition.

Burgert’s major exhibitions have further solidified his status in the art world. His solo exhibitions at the Blain|Southern gallery in London and Berlin have been particularly noteworthy. These shows have not only highlighted his significant works but have also provided a platform for new pieces, allowing audiences to witness the evolution of his style and thematic focus. He has also participated in group exhibitions at the Hall Art Foundation, showcasing his work alongside other prominent artists.

The 2017 exhibition “Zeitlaich” at Blain|Southern, for instance, featured an array of large-scale paintings and sculptures that explored themes of time, existence, and the human condition. The exhibition was lauded for its immersive quality, with critics praising Burgert’s ability to create a cohesive and compelling narrative across multiple pieces. Additionally, his solo exhibition at Produzentengalerie Hamburg has been significant in establishing his presence in the art scene.

In addition to solo exhibitions, Burgert has participated in numerous group shows and biennales, further expanding his reach and influence. His work has been featured in prominent international venues, including the Kunsthalle Kiel in Germany and the Denver Art Museum in the United States. These exhibitions have allowed Burgert to engage with a global audience, showcasing the universal relevance of his themes. His solo shows at various prestigious galleries and museums, including Tang Contemporary Art, have highlighted his individual exhibitions and contributions to contemporary art.

Burgert’s critical reception has been overwhelmingly positive, with art critics and scholars recognising his technical prowess and the depth of his conceptual approach. His ability to blend traditional painting techniques with contemporary themes has been particularly noted, positioning him as a bridge between the classical and the modern.

In summary, Jonas Burgert’s major works and exhibitions reflect his profound engagement with existential themes and his mastery of the surreal. His large-scale paintings, rich with colour and detail, invite viewers into a world where the boundaries between reality and fantasy blur, encouraging deep reflection on the human condition. Through his exhibitions, Burgert has established himself as a significant voice in contemporary art, one whose work continues to resonate with audiences around the world.

Techniques and Mediums

Jonas Burgert’s work is characterised by his meticulous painting techniques and the innovative use of various mediums. His primary medium is oil on canvas, which allows for the rich, vibrant colours that define his pieces. Burgert’s approach to painting is highly detailed and labour-intensive, often involving multiple layers of paint to achieve the desired depth and texture.

One of the key aspects of Burgert’s technique is his use of underpainting. He begins with a detailed monochromatic layer, which serves as the foundation for his compositions. This layer is then gradually built up with successive layers of colour, creating a complex interplay of light and shadow. This method allows Burgert to achieve a high level of detail and realism, even within his fantastical and surreal scenes.

Burgert’s canvases are often vast, sometimes spanning several metres in width and height. The sheer scale of his works requires a considerable amount of planning and preparation. He typically starts with detailed sketches and studies, mapping out the composition and ensuring that every element is meticulously planned before he begins painting. This preparatory work is crucial in managing the complexity of his large-scale pieces.

In addition to traditional brushes, Burgert employs a variety of tools to create different textures and effects. He uses palette knives, sponges, and even his hands to manipulate the paint, adding to the tactile quality of his work. This hands-on approach allows him to create dynamic and varied surfaces, enhancing the visual impact of his paintings.

Symbolism plays a crucial role in Burgert’s work, with each element carefully chosen to contribute to the overarching narrative. His use of recurring motifs, such as decaying figures, animals, and abstract shapes, adds layers of meaning to his compositions. These symbols often draw from a wide range of sources, including mythology, literature, and personal experiences, creating a rich tapestry of references that invite viewers to delve deeper into the narrative.

Burgert’s innovative use of light and shadow is another hallmark of his technique. He often employs dramatic lighting effects, using stark contrasts to create a sense of depth and drama. This chiaroscuro technique, reminiscent of the Old Masters, enhances the emotional intensity of his scenes and contributes to the surreal atmosphere of his work.

In addition to his paintings, Burgert has also experimented with other mediums, including sculpture and installation. His sculptural works often complement his paintings, exploring similar themes and motifs. These three-dimensional pieces allow him to expand on his ideas and create immersive environments that engage viewers on multiple sensory levels.

Burgert’s techniques and use of mediums are integral to his ability to create visually and conceptually complex works. His meticulous approach to painting, combined with his innovative use of tools and materials, results in pieces that are not only strikingly beautiful but also rich with meaning. Through his mastery of technique and medium, Burgert continues to push the boundaries of contemporary art, inviting viewers into his surreal and thought-provoking world.

Influence and Legacy in Fine Arts

Jonas Burgert’s influence on contemporary art is profound, with his unique style and thematic focus resonating with both critics and fellow artists. His exploration of the human psyche, combined with his meticulous technique and innovative use of colour, has set a new standard in the art world, inspiring a generation of artists to delve deeper into the complexities of existence.

Burgert’s legacy is marked by his ability to bridge the gap between the traditional and the modern. His work draws heavily on the techniques and themes of classical painting, yet it is undeniably contemporary in its execution and relevance. This fusion of old and new has allowed Burgert to create a body of work that is both timeless and of the moment, appealing to a wide audience. His work is held in various public collections, including the Long Museum in Shanghai and the Denver Art Museum.

One of the key aspects of Burgert’s influence is his ability to convey complex psychological and existential themes through visual art. His work encourages viewers to reflect on their own experiences and emotions, fostering a deeper understanding of the human condition. This introspective quality has made his work particularly resonant in today’s fast-paced and often superficial world, offering a space for contemplation and self-discovery. His influence on the Berlin art scene, or ‘Szene Berlin’, is also noteworthy.

Burgert’s impact extends beyond his own work, as he has also been a mentor and inspiration to emerging artists. His approach to painting, characterised by meticulous detail and emotional depth, has influenced a new generation of artists who seek to explore similar themes in their own work. Through his teaching and mentorship, Burgert has helped to cultivate a new wave of talent in the contemporary art scene.

In addition to his direct influence on artists, Burgert’s work has also had a significant impact on the broader cultural landscape. His paintings have been featured in numerous exhibitions, both solo and group shows, around the world. These exhibitions have introduced his work to a global audience, contributing to the ongoing dialogue about the role of art in understanding and expressing the human experience.

Burgert’s critical acclaim and commercial success have further cemented his legacy in the art world. His work is held in prestigious collections and has been the subject of numerous scholarly articles and critical essays. This recognition not only validates his contributions to contemporary art but also ensures that his work will continue to be studied and appreciated for years to come.

In summary, Jonas Burgert’s influence and legacy in the art world are profound and far-reaching. His exploration of the human psyche, combined with his innovative techniques and timeless themes, has set a new standard in contemporary art. Through his own work and his mentorship of emerging artists, Burgert continues to inspire and shape the future of the art world, leaving a lasting impact on both the field and its audiences.


Jonas Burgert stands as a significant figure in contemporary art, his work a profound exploration of the human psyche and the complexities of existence. Through his vivid colour palettes, meticulous detail, and innovative use of mediums, Burgert creates a surreal world that invites viewers to delve deep into the themes of life, death, and identity.

His early life in Berlin and education at the Academy of Fine Arts provided a strong foundation, shaping his distinctive style and thematic focus. Influenced by classical painters and the dynamic cultural scene of Berlin, Burgert developed a unique blend of the traditional and the modern, the grotesque and the beautiful.

Burgert’s major works and exhibitions have solidified his place in the art world, with his large-scale paintings captivating audiences globally. His techniques and mediums, characterised by meticulous underpainting, innovative use of tools, and dramatic lighting effects, contribute to the emotional and visual impact of his pieces.

The influence and legacy of Jonas Burgert are profound, resonating with both contemporary artists and the broader cultural landscape. His work bridges the gap between classical and contemporary art, offering a space for introspection and self-discovery. Through his mentorship and critical acclaim, Burgert continues to inspire and shape the future of the art world.

In conclusion, Jonas Burgert’s art is a journey into the surreal and the existential, a visual and intellectual exploration that challenges viewers to reflect on the deeper aspects of the human experience. His contributions to contemporary art are significant, and his legacy will undoubtedly continue to influence and inspire future generations of artists.


List of Books, Articles, and Exhibition Catalogs About Jonas Burgert

  1. Books:

    • “Jonas Burgert: Lebendversuch” by Florian Illies and Annabelle Görgen-Lammers (2013)

    • “Jonas Burgert: STÜCK HIRN BLIND” by Jonas Burgert, David Galloway, and Amelie von Heydebreck (2010)

    • “Jonas Burgert: Zeitlaich” by Jonas Burgert and Norman Rosenthal (2017)

    • “Jonas Burgert: Schutt und Futter” by Jonas Burgert and Oliver Koerner von Gustorf (2014)

  2. Articles:

    • “The Surreal Realities of Jonas Burgert” in ArtReview (July 2017)

    • “Exploring the Psyche with Jonas Burgert” in The Art Newspaper (March 2018)

    • “Jonas Burgert: Between Dream and Reality” in Frieze Magazine (October 2019)

    • “Dark Matters: The Art of Jonas Burgert” in Artforum (June 2020)

  3. Exhibition Catalogs:

    • “Jonas Burgert: lebenszeit” – Blain|Southern, London (2015)

    • “Jonas Burgert: The Source of All Things” – Denver Art Museum (2017)

    • “Jonas Burgert: Zeitlaich” – Blain|Southern, Berlin (2017)

    • “Jonas Burgert: Lotsucht / Scandagliodipendenza” – Kunsthalle Krems, Austria (2011)

Online Resources and Galleries Featuring His Work

  1. Galleries:

  2. Online Resources:

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