I’ve been a big fan of the works of Zdzisław Beksiński for a long time. They are like dreams and, often, nightmares, come to life. Beksiński himself even said as much about his own work, and from what I’ve read about him he was a fascinating person. Especially in the many ways that I feel the same way about art as he did.
One of his great quotes about his own work fits perfectly with how I think of mine: “I cannot conceive of a sensible statement on painting.” I’ve never been able to come up with an, “artist’s statement”, because I don’t think mine would make any sense. My styles are just what comes out of my brain, and my soul, and I don’t think I could, as Beksiński puts it, come up with any sensible way of explaining it.
One of my favorite pieces by Beksiński is this one below, an oil painting from 1983. Beksiński didn’t like to title his works, though I like to think of this one as a “nightmare musician”:
What I love most about this piece is how Beksiński takes ideas that would be considered normal and twists them. A horn is normal, as are fingers and playing an instrument. Beksiński has taken those normal ideas and made something wonderfully unique, that challenges our notions of what “normal” really is.
By using recognizable pieces, Beksiński brings the viewer into the painting comfortably. We know what these things are, and that recognition is used to pull us into this wildly surreal world. Beksiński takes that comfortable knowledge and uses it to alter our reality.
As with many of his works, the real becomes twisted into a new world, a nightmarish landscape. Yet, we can’t look away. Beksiński uses our familiarity to capture us, and we watch this new world with wonder.
The other thing I really like about this piece is the sense that you can’t quite tell if we’re looking at many fingers in fast motion, or many fingers resting on the horn. Is this creature playing the instrument with astonishing speed, or merely holding it with its many fingers?
The mystery and the strangeness of Beksiński’s piece keeps us fascinated with it. We search through the painting for the answer, examining this new world, then it sticks with us afterwards. As great art always does.