Zdzisław Beksiński

Zdzisław Beksiński was a Polish painter specialized in dystopian surrealism. He was born in 1929, in Sanok (Poland) and died in 2005 in Warsaw. After studying architecture in Krakow he returns to his hometown to work as construction site manager. Realizing that it was bothering him, he started photography and sculpture as a way to express what he had in his mind.

Those two media allowed him to start developing his universe and aesthetic. His photographs centered on distorted part of the body. He would also focus on urban textures or daily scenes of men and women frozen in a moment.

His sculptures were less figurative. We could often imagine a face, but without being able to say if it was human or not. We already found in his creations the premises of what he would later develop with painting, which would become his preferred medium because it was less restrictive.

Zdzisław Beksiński’s paintings do not leave one indifferent. However he always has refused to provide an interpretation or explanation of his work. It is also one of the reason why he never named his paintings, as a way not to influence the spectator. However, it is very difficult to resist the temptation and not put words on what we see. Indeed, we notice recurring themes such as war, totalitarianism, death, destruction, sexuality or religion. Naming those help to integrate the strangeness of the scenes unfolding before our eyes.

Each painting seem to be part of the same world and provide a coherent whole. One at a time they reveal another part of his world, as if we were mapping Zdzisław Beksiński’s mind. Along our journey we encounter familiar shapes and landscapes, but also a lot of unknown. We walk through apocalyptic landscapes, passing near abandoned and torn down buildings. We came across men wandering in a ruined world. Human bodies are emaciated, deformed, faceless, deprived from eyes or mouth. Bodies are stacked, like stuck in their last movement. Some shapes are no longer human, some other never were. We are walking next to creatures from another world.

His colors of predilection are warm shades such as red, orange or ochre, feeling like the horizon of a bombed-out world and cold shades such as blue, grey or steel, which freeze elements in time. In his paintings we also often find a core element with a lot of details, almost overloaded, surrounded by emptiness. By this way the eye of the spectator is constantly reminded of the main element of the painting, as if he couldn’t escape it.

Later on in his life, he tried a more abstract form of painting, but even there we could definitely find the particular aesthetic of Zdzisław Beksiński. With the emergence and development of computers he also tried photo editing. Even if it was not as powerful as his paintings, one can only applaud his adaptability and the importance of the creative process no matter the medium.

He was a music lover and couldn’t paint without it. Zdzisław Beksiński was a very prolific artist and it is in its hometown of Sanok that you can find the biggest exhibition in the world dedicated to his work, with around 600 of his creations.

The particularities of his word are endless. It is like if he painted some of the creatures described by H.P. Lovecraft in his books. There are also many similarities with the work of H.R. Giger, in his capacity to create a world populated by strange and inexplicable. His influence is no longer to be proven. It is no surprise to discover that director Guillermo Del Toro owns some pieces of art from Zdzisław Beksiński or to found out his influence on the video game industry such as with the first person horror video game Scorn.

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