Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wojtek Siudmak and Sepia Surrealism

 I really like to see surreal work that goes farther than Dali. The renowned fantasy illustrator and painter  Wojtek Siudmak defiantly takes it a step further by using the Grisaille Method. He experiments with blue monochromatic paintings as well (and not all his paintings are monochromatic). He illustrated the Polish edition of Dune among other things. There is so much variety in his work, I am very impressed with his mastery of his painting and the symbolism deployed.

The Grisaille method trains the eye because mistakes that would be invisible in colorful drawings are very conspicuous when there's no color to distract the eye (or mind). The concept that the mind is forced to think more logically without colors, which trigger emotions, has shaped my artistic expression also. I prefer logic to shape emotions and not the other way around. The Grisaille method was much used in the Renaissance, which clearly inspired him. The painting above (Light of Childhood) looks very much like St. Peter's Basilica.  His desire for logical artistic expression reveals itself with the theme of architecture in his work. Architecture is one of the  most intellectually challenging arts. The Renaissance is, by the way, the beginning of "modern" times, when the questions Siudmak seems to be pursuing originated (with science).

I enjoy seeing how he plays with the relationship between what is organic and what has been engineered, specifically, human bodies and the machines they created. To what extent are we pre-programmed by nature (or God, if you prefer) and to what extent do we control our own destiny and function? Nature verses nurture has an answer in his work. That answer, is both. However, the more interesting questions are; how are they combined and what is the code these combinations follow? Which are possible and which are right? 

"Just because it is possible, does that make it right?" has preoccupied modern minds with no satisfactory result, yet. His paintings warn of a world where this question may have gone unresolved so long that it has been abandoned. Is this world in the future or have the dire fantasies come to pass already? The strange part is, whatever is happening, it is still beautiful somehow. Beauty will never cease to exist (no wonder some worship it).

One gets the sense that we were never really compatible with nature (I am not suggesting that we are supernatural nor am I a creationist). I mean we have always been at war with it, we have always been trying to tame it, outsmart it and to use it against itself. We have certainly succeeded in using it against itself. There is no such thing as something "unnatural", as everything is part of the natural world, but how long can we keep tinkering until our own experiments turn against us?


One might argue that they already have. Yet, we can't turn back. Even in trying to "correct" what we have done, we will be interfering further. There is no choice but to move forward. Biological experiments in the future might yield little torsos growing on trees along with the leaves. The world of our creation is as much a world of unintended consequences as it is a world of materialized fantasies. We will always coexist with Nature no matter what the combination may be. They are infinite.

No matter what we do, Nature will always do us one better and we should never forget this. The logical human mind finds itself in a stream of dilemmas that will never end (no matter what painting technique it uses to try to reflect the world around it to the end of deciphering it). We are stuck in a paradox forever. 

I discovered Siudmak at Surrealism and Visionary. Also, here is a concept band called Ahab. They too are preoccupied with the paradox, as presented in Moby Dick, of all things (read about them if you want to know what I mean). Give it a chance. 


  1. I agree that our attempts to control nature and our fights with it are futile because nature will always prevail no matter what. Though by saying that, I am giving the impression that nature is some type of foreign army or a being that has its own agenda, but I feel that is not the case. We are part of an entire existence that nature is in as well, there is no definite line of what is nature and what is us, we mix all the time and will continue to until the end of time itself, even if humans all die out, the ruins of our great civilizations will be scattered across the earth, the remnants of our bodies will still be deep underground, our blood will be flowing through the streams, and all the tiny little molecules that survive after death will be floating through the air. I agree with the symbolism in these paintings, what makes our "battle" with nature even more perverse and destructive is that we are battling ourselves, we are trying to fight and control something that is us. There is nothing that can be done to stop this. You are right that nothing is unnatural, at some point in the future we will be farming body parts as we farm fields of corn, and most likely use them to replace body parts that are broken or for purely cosmetic purposes. We could look at that and say how wrong that is, and that it is against the laws of nature or god, but if that were the case then it would not even have been possible for us to do in the first place. I dont believe that there is some end of days where we finally get to a point where we will have toyed with nature so much that it leads to our destruction, there will be no apocalypse, we will never reach a point where we are defeated, but we can look at something like what Wojtek made and see how terrifying our world really is, even if it is all natural.

    1. Of course you are right about us being a part of nature, in reality. The part of us we don't see as part of nature is , for lack of a more illustrative concept, the soul. The spirit, or consciousness, is what is beyond nature somehow (even though in reality it's not) in that these things are said to be immortal and nothing in nature is (caveat: it depends on how you define immortal). Humanity has always had the sense that it is definitely separate from its environment. People who advocate being "in touch" with nature, by doing so, acknowledge that we don't have to be, and if we have this choice (no matter how loaded with complexity going "against" nature is), that means that some part of us and what we do is not fully compatible with the way things flowed before we came along. Indeed it might be what has given our species the edge we have. In reality, of course we are a part of nature, but it seems like we can't fully convince ourselves of this because there is no precedent for us to follow (that is known). Everything we do is unlike anything that existed before so it's hard to conceive that it is a part of the way things are "meant to be".


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