Artist Review: Zdzislaw Beksiński



Beksińki’s work is dark, incredibly so, detailing a surreal, nightmarish world in which eyeless faces float in the sky, and the overwhelming sense of decay and chaos is juxtaposed against the calm within the black, silent fog. Painting in ‘a manner in which to photograph dreams‘, Zdzislaw spent the majority of his artistic career painting these heavily detailed, stygian images, despite having no formal training as an artist. Perhaps the most interesting fact about his work is his stance on ‘not understanding his work‘, which he so vehemently pursued and told people, describing his work as often misunderstood, with viewers missing the humorous and positive aspects that seem to be hidden amongst the murkiness.


Untitled (Fantastic Period)

(Image taken from:

Many of Zdzislaw’s works fall into one of two periods; his ‘Fantastic period‘, which took place between 1960-80 and is characterised by his heavily surreal artworks, which were now starting to gain national recognition fro the people of Poland. His work is characterised by his trademark precision, always dealing with a heavy level of detail. The work utilises a very dark palette, but with flashes of bright colours to accentuate the otherworldliness of the beings that inhabit this seemingly post-apocalyptic landscape. They share traits both with humans, but also with primates, and seems to point to a regression in behaviour and form of humanity, as well as the uneasiness surrounding a likeness to humanity, but with flaws.


Untitled (Later period)

(Image taken from:×1080/Zdzislaw_Beksinski_42_1440x1080.jpg)

Zdzislaw’s later period was characterised by a much more subdued palette, and dominated by images of monumental figures, often heavily sculptural, and crosses. The cross becomes a central image in a lot of his work at this time, often dominating a skyline, as seen here, and dragging all attention towards it. There is always something hanging off it though, and the form is always obscured by some surreal form. They really craft a sense of isolation and power within the image, something deeply ingrained in the deep recesses of our minds.


Untitled (Fantastic Period)

(Image taken from:

As mentioned before, Fog is a major part of Zdzislaw’s work, often placed strategically in the background, and often creeping into the foreground, obscuring the objects and forms that are in the painting. It is almost always a dark colour, resembling shadows and parts of dreams that we can’t quite recall when having awakened. It’s as if Zdzislaw purposefully leaves parts of the painting as blank spaces prompting our mind to fill them in and a more personal response to it. The image is a sombre one, a dark, dead tree stands short and wide, something that is never seen in real life, whilst the ground seems to seep blood underneath, and a boat rides upon the earth. What this means, I have no idea, and I don’t think the artist did too. But whatever the case, there is a sense of hollow, haunting beauty within the piece.


Untitled (Later Period)

(Image taken from;


Untitled (Later Period)

(Image taken from;

The most relevant works that Zdzislaw crafted to my work, are his images of figures embracing. However, despite the fierce interlocking of their skeletal, dry bodies, there is once again a sense of pain and routine, as the bodies cling to one another, terrified of the dark, vast expanses surrounding them. It is beautiful in this respect, the embrace is so powerful, so tightly coiled, that the world becomes nothing more than a dark void, and the only beings that exist are these ‘humans’.  Humorously, there is a third form within the second image, but the same idea remains; they lock against one another to be protected from the pains of life that surround them. As they are an image, they showcase a moment in time, and will continue to do so until the painting falls apart. This is a literal representation of a moment in time, as the image must have been so deeply ingrained into the skull of Zdzislaw and his dreams, for it is not painted from life. The singular event showcased in the first image is so powerful, and with such humanity, that I completely empathise with the creatures showcased within. They are haunting, deplorable to look at, but they find comfort in one another’s arms.

I want to capture that beauty, that comfort.


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