• Denholm Hewlett

[Art/Classics] Zdzisław Beksiński - (1929 - 2005)

"I wish to paint as if I were photographing dreams".

Zdzislaw Beksinski was born 24th of February, 1929, in the town of Sanok, Poland. Beksinski would grow up to become a highly innovative and influential Polish artist, a remarkable painter, photographer and sculptor, famous for his otherworldly apocalypse paintings known as the “fantastic” series - These atmospheric and confrontational oil paintings explore the realms of dystopian surrealism, magical realism and the uncharted depths of human consciousness.

After living through the horrors of WW2, the holocaust and the soviet decimation of his Polish homeland, the young Beksinski began to capture the atrocities of the world around him by manifesting his inner nightmares onto paper and celluloid, exploring his fascinations with darkness, death, dreams and decay. The work of Beksinski has been criticised in the past for it's lack of humanism and it's apparent nihilism, for allegedly painting "abstract humans" with deformed and denigrated bodies, often in humiliating or painful situations, but the artist insists that his work is not about capturing other humans, it's a representation of himself, a reflection of his own experiences, fears, obsessions and desires that are unattainable in everyday life but can be physically manifested through his art.

These "cursed" oil paintings combine an unorthodox mixture of surrealist architecture, spiritualism, eroticism, war violence and dream logic to produce vivid doomsday scenarios - Hellish dystopian landscapes populated with nightmarish figures, emaciated prisoners, soviet soldiers, demonic overlords, odious desert monsters and armies of deformed skeletons. Beksinski paintings are timeless, inter-dimensional abstractions. All of these haunting and visceral 'Baroque' paintings were left untitled by Beksinski, this is because he didn't believe in bestowing names to his paintings and running the risk of having his work being misinterpreted.

"Interpretation is imposed by others. Speaking immodestly, Paintings are to be admired or contemplated, admired without asking what it means. If I had something to say, I would write it down or say it. I don't need painting for that. Meaning is meaningless to me. I do not care for symbolism and I paint what I paint without meditating on a story. If my art is about anything, It's solely about the mood and atmosphere". - Beksinski (2003)

Beksinski's success as a painter brought a global audience to contemporary Polish art and his paintings went on to define the visual aesthetic of heavy metal, with many of his images being repurposed for album covers. Beksinski's artistic style is often compared to Hans Giger, the Swiss painter who designed the infamous xenomorph in “ALIEN” (1979).

Before his career as a painter, Beksinski studied Architecture in Crakow and began designing buses for an auto-company in Sanok. He started experimenting with photography in his spare time and soon caused a controversy in Poland’s art world with his most famous photograph "SADIST'S CORSET" (1957), a far cry from the traditional nude portrait, this bold image renounced all of the rules and mantras of conventional Pictorialism or "pure photography". The abstracted compositions and distorted stylistic elements seen in Beksinski's early photographic experiments would ultimately bleed directly into the sadomasochist visual aesthetic of his otherworldly dystopian oil paintings. Beksinski would eventually quit photography altogether years later as it was starting to limit his imagination and artistic possibilities, he soon transitioned to painting.

Despite the morbid nature of his work, the unquestionable artistic qualities that Beksinki possessed make him one of the most respected and original creative minds of his generation. He gained international acclaim for his ingenious oil paintings which managed to encapsulate mankind's inherent universal fascination for the macabre and mysterious underbelly of human nature. After a lengthy career, Beksinski was tragically murdered at the age of 75 in 2005. A museum was established for the artist in his hometown of Sonak in 2012, featuring over 600 of his paintings and photo negatives.

~ Check out a gallery of Beksinski's untitled paintings ~

To gain a true insight into Beksinski's creative process, check out the video below of the artist in his home studio / painting with his trademark precision whilst listening to his favourable soundtrack of classical music.

~ Psychic Garden

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