The Polish artist Zdislaw Beksinski created masterful work of macabre fantasy. He stated that his artistic aim was to photograph dreams.
My interpretation of this is that he sought to capture the disjointed, disturbing, impressionistic, and fleeting emotional imagery that visits us all at night. Put another way, dreams are sort of meaning soup–upon waking we ladle the broth hoping to catch a noodle or a hunk of meat.
Zdislaw was born in 1929. He finished an architecture degree in Warsaw in 1952. The location and timing of his young manhood leads many to think that WWII would’ve had a profound affect on his psyche; logically it follows that the trauma Hitler inflicted on the world, and the decayed state of Poland in the aftermath of the Holocaust, influenced his dark fantastical realist style of art.
Glancing through Zdislaw’s work though, I think Christianity, and in many ways a positive internalization of it–or to the non-believer, man’s capacity for spirituality allowing him to transcend the evil of worldly flesh–is what made him tick.
Mexican film director Guillermo Del Toro says this about Beksinski:
In the medieval tradition, Beksinski seems to believe art to be a forewarning about the fragility of the flesh – whatever pleasures we know are doomed to perish – thus, his paintings manage to evoke at once the process of decay and the ongoing struggle for life. They hold within them a secret poetry, stained with blood and rust.
Personal accounts of Beksinski pegged him as a pleasant intellectual with quite the sense of humor despite his grim fascinations. He fancied himself an optimist, stating that his work often went misunderstood–morbid horror representing bleakness. However, Beksinski considered his works uplifting and even humorous.
Zdislaw had no interest in the meanings of his paintings, refusing even to title them. I think this is such a wonderful artistic trait because an artist should simply be a conduit. My art philosophy aside, it complements Beksinski’s work harmoniously because his vision was to paint as if photographing dreams.
The interpretation should be left to the viewer of his work because only the individual who has had the dream can truly understand their own subconscious sludge.
Enjoying Zdislaw Beksinski’s work for its macabre beauty is easy. I’m interested to see how people interpret some of his images knowing that he considered them optimistic and humorous.
Find some positive meanings in the images below and share your thoughts in the comments.
I’ll get things started with the first image of a crucified torso.
In the background, the sun bakes the clouds to an orange-blue haze that reminds me of a hellscape on the planet Venus. The wrists are nailed into a cross missing the top portion of its column beam. Behind it leans a clean blue crucifix.
The ragged torso of an individual long-since crucified represents Jesus Christ. Jesus embodies the ultimate sacrifice, the absolution of humankind’s sin.
In the Judeo-Christian world this is the greatest gift ever given. The most merciful act of God, arguably of any god, in that its purpose was to forgive humanity for its sinful nature.
Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in the context of this painting states the following: no matter how fallen the world is–even if God’s chosen Jews are being rounded up and exterminated in concentration camps and Europe is being torn to shreds by Allied and Axis Powers because of it–God’s gift of Christ to redeem humanity persists.
The painting means that it doesn’t matter how incredulous one might be in a moment of staggering evil and carnage like WWII, depicted by the ragged appearance of the headless torso, the decayed bone, the sinew connecting right arm to shoulder about to give, that the redemption remains, right there in the pure blue crucifix behind.
In essence, this image symbolizes that humanity will persevere through any evil, and that deeply flawed as we are, we are good.
If that isn’t positive, I don’t know that is.
Now enjoy several more samples of Berksinski’s work.