Friday, April 30, 2010


Erik Heyninck

When I read that Beksinski had been stabbed to death, I experienced the same shock as when I read John Lennon had been killed.

The year before he had been the Guest of Honour at the Biennal of Saint Leonard where I too was exhibiting. At the time I knew his works from the Internet ( Morpheus ) and from some reproductions in magazines. Seeing his works for real was quite a complex experience. His is not a world I would like to live in. I prefer, say, Waterhouse's. Yet he fascinated me because, like often when something profound happens to me, I hear music in my head. I won't spin off to music here but it may be said that I'm an omnivorous gourmet. Beksinski's music is full of dissonances. Diabolic quints to be more precise. Quints are very important because of the quint-essence and the fact that five is the number of life: no crystal can have a five-sided symmetry. The diabolic quint, which everyone knows as the eerie sound that creates tension in older horror movies, is not harmonous but sounds like nearly being there but not yet. Like something is about to happen. Sometimes there are lots of deep drones in his works with sharp, gliding masses of high pitched clusters, and sometimes I hear music that makes me think of Penderecki's early work like his " Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima ".

Some six months later he was killed. Murdered. I was so shocked that I had to tell it to someone. So I called Marie-Thérèse Malbet who organises the Biennal. The idea was born to do an homage to him. She contacted Pjotr Dmochowski once again and he agreed to lend a series of works. As I always go to the Biennal a week early to participate in the hanging of the works, I had the honour to hang Beksinski's works in the beautiful medieval Salle des Conférences ( see photos ). So I spent a lot of time with them, trying to find a harmony in the whole that would be more than the sum of the quality of the individual works. This gave me the opportunity to come closer to them. Then there was also Dmochowski's book on Beksinski. In the evenings I looked at the illustrations and read the texts. Dmochowski is a very close friend of Beksinski (friendship never ends with death. nor does love.) but the impression I got from Beksinski was a different one than the mental cluster I had already created.

Beksinski hated seeing other people's works because he didn't like to do something someone else had also done. He ate sausages for years and was anxious to change that habit. He listened to solemn classical music for up to fourteen hours a day.

To be honest, those details are not important. They may be food for tabloid press readers, but they do not say anything about the man as the nearly Dalinian show is far too apparent. " Don't let appearances fool you: feel the vibes as well, " Donovan sang. What is important is the fact that he never gave titles to his works because he did not want to limit them to any interpretation whatsoever.

At the opening, Dmochowski speech was very touching as his friendship for the late master was evident. So once again I had to adapt my point of view. When the Biennal was closed during the mid-day hours, I spent hours alone in that room. Only me, and those works. Musing. Meditating. Interested, attentive but refusing any answers. Just like he refused titles. I did not get bored like I often do.

Beksinski's works remind me of Charles Baudelaire's famous verses from his poem "La Beauté" ( Beauty ):

"Je hais le mouvement qui déplace les lignes et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris"
( I hate any movement that would give the lines another place and I never cry nor laugh )

His works are massive blocks of power, nuclear plants even, as the radiate their forces on anyone without exception. No friendly invitation awaits one: it's rather: " enter freely, and of your own free will " There's a kind of stasis in them, deep rooted and immovable. Something that can be interpreted as a threat. A defence perhaps. Pessimism which leads, via putrefaction, to alchemy and transmutation.

Dmochowski said that shortly before the murder, he'd had a long telephone chat with Beksinski, who said that he finally was feeling better, nearly cheerful even ( during the nineties he had lost his wife, and his son had commited suicide ) . He had also said that his works were changing, that a new style was emerging. The grey work with the lightning was one of his last works. Shorthy after, he was stabbed to death for a fistful of money.

Music needs no explanation, so why would a painting need a title, a theme? Preserve the mystery. Also the mystery called Beksinski. There's much Romanticism in his works. Poe, Baudelaire's fascination for death, Mary Wollstonecraft's Frankenstein, Lovecraft, ... it seems he had used the word "Gothic " to describe his own works. The doom chords of bands like My Dying Bride can come very close. But...

But when you come closer and resist all words, even the vaguest of interpretations, if you pass the ordeal of the power that says "thou shalt not pass", everything changes. Seen from close by, beyond the static appearance, Beksinski's works are extremely light and full of movement. Nervous movements of the brushes, a play with colours, a joy in painting I have rarely seen in other artist's works. To me, there's only one certainty as far as Beksinski is concerned:: Beksinski loved painting, and wherever love is around, things are ok.

These 33 photos are a way to share with you what I experienced. If you paint yourselves, and most of you do, you'll admire his "handwriting". If you don't, you can see a master of painting at work and this from very close-by. None of the works are complete. To see the full works and many, many more, don't visit those commercial galleries, but go to

Erik Heyninck

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