Zdzisław Beksiński Learns How To « Photograph Dreams » to Create Nightmarish Illustrations
Whilst some artist’s make a name for themselves through depicting reality, Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński‘s artworks take on a far darker, abstract form thanks to his ability to capture moments that would only ever be possible within a dream world.
Filled with surreal creatures set in an almost dystopian and chilling world Beksiński described each of his artworks as if they were « photographs » of bad dreams in which recognisable elements of reality interact within surreal situations – the end result of which is some truly unsettling illustrations. Tragically Beksiński was murdered in 2005, however he leaves behind a fascinating collection of work.
Whether you’re a fan or not of his theme however, it’s hard to argue with the artistic talent behind each of Beksiński’s paintings which only serves to make them more intense, expressive and of course, creepier. The artist once described his own art in one sentence, “what matters is what appears in your soul, not what your eyes see and what you can name.”
To best explain his state of mind when painting, I preferred to keep his words:
« I do not attack the board until I have the whole idea in my head. But more than once, in the first twenty minutes, this idea is replaced by a completely different one. I am attracted by the realization of what is in my head. However, often I am not happy with what comes out of the brush and that is not adequate with my vision. The first day of work is the happiest. Then, as the days go by, I get tired and more and more convinced that I am creating a « crust ». When the completed painting is hanging on the wall for a long time at home, I gradually get used to it and stop seeing its flaws. The process of painting is a tiring job. «
It will be noted that a little later its design evolves.
« The action of painting is not about finding ideas. The painting is visible. The fact of painting stems from the need to plastically articulate one’s own vision, and nothing else. «
If at first painting is to reproduce his ideas, then it becomes the representation of the painting he has in mind.
Interpretations of his paintings
What does he expect from the viewer?
The painter does not expect anything from the viewer. He paints without thinking about the reception of his work. He paints for himself.
Besides, he hates to make exhibitions and hear comments on his paintings whether they are positive or not.
For him the interpretation comes solely from the viewer and the analysis should stop at « I like it or I do not like it ».
He, the only thing that interests him is the pictorial material.
He considers that the content of his works is incommunicable. They come from a certain atmosphere he feels but he can not name.
The meaning of his works is not verbalizable. His paintings are meant to be watched and not told.
His paintings are not intended to answer questions but to amaze, to upset us.
People constantly ask him what his paintings represent. But for him they have no meaning. They are made to be seen and not interpreted. We must not look for why such a person is painted in such a way and with such color. When he paints he is mainly interested in the visual aspect.
Zdzisław Beksiński does not represent cruelty
Some of his paintings show skinned people, bare muscles, blood and sores.
But for the artist, it’s not about exposing the cruelty. It’s all about painting something he likes: the skin.
Tables show the pulpit reached by decomposition. For him it is not decomposition but form. Where people see traces, tasks, scars, for him it’s just lines. These are details that he inserts because he hates emptiness.
« I have been reproached more than once, that I paint people skinned or corpses. It does not exist in my paintings, and certainly in my intentions. As a painter, the smooth human chair bores me. «
For him his paintings do not represent the terror either, « They are human characters, faces and nothing else ».
In his paintings some elements refer to death. For the painter it is normal since everyone is interested except that he paints what it inspires him.
But there is no particular meaning behind it and we must not think of it as a great reflection.
What he represents always comes from a reality he imagines. This is a representation of his imagination and not something existing. His painting is like a dream. It can be scary but by no means cruel. Some have interpreted these paintings from the second world war, compared to the horrors that the painter could see.
But Zdzisław Beksiński says that these paintings have nothing to do with the historical or political context.
For a moment the painter was interested in psychology, the unconscious and even spiritualism. But he explains that reading his paintings from these notions is absurd. It can help to understand the personality of the artist but it does not explain the picture. Zdzisław Beksiński has some peculiarities: – He hates odors whether natural or artificial, even that of flowers. – He « particularly hates everything that is organic and natural. Before leaving Sanok he burned a large quantity of his paintings. He was afraid that in the future all his good paintings would be lost and that one only finds « his crusts » and that he is known from them. – The painter confesses that his father had an influence on him by repeating to him that a real man does not cry and does not display his feelings. He was thus raised so as to have a « white sahib ». For him the fucked has become something reserved for the sexual sphere and he is anxious that someone kisses him. Some speak only of these elements to show the strangeness of the painter.
But it is an incomplete portrait. He remains a normal person: – He does not drink alcohol and does not consume narcotics. (Exit the theory of the drugged or alcoholic artist) – He had a woman with whom he spoke a lot and lots of things. When she wanted to go out, he would happily interrupt his work and leave with her. So it’s not an artist locked up in his studio who has no connection with anyone. – For him happiness is not a state that we reach but towards which we tend. – He has no desire to self-destruct.
When he has a problem he immediately looks for a solution, he does not let it go. For him the idea of suicide is unacceptable.
He is not interested in religion.
When he paints a cross, there is no religious symbolism.
He does it for what it represents: death. It’s the cross everywhere in the cemeteries. The man on the cross does not represent Jesus because Christ and the idea of redemption are absent from his mind. The shape and the background For him the form is more important than the bottom.
When he paints what interests him is to shape the shape so that each spectator understands that it is he who made it. The content is due to chance even if he prefers certain moods like melancholy .
These works are in no way protests against the contamination of the atmosphere nor against the nuclear war. His artistic inspirations At school he already showed gifts and he did not stop drawing.
His creations went in two directions.
The first, official, had a character martyrologue. He took the example of Grottger.
The other direction was to represent cartoons worthy of the Playboy magazine. In 1948, he visited an exhibition of Moder Art in Krakow. He then realizes that there is something he does not understand but that attracts him enormously. He abandons the aesthetics of Grottger. He was then inspired by other people even though no one saw the similarities. (Wojtkiewicz, Tadeusz Brzozowski )