Saturday, September 18, 2010

Steel Bashaw

A new illustrated fantasy story presents the fruit of 15 years of effort by Serbian/Dutch artist Petar Meseldžija.

The folktale, called “The Legend of Steel Bashaw,” presents heroes, maidens, horses, and dragons—all fairly familiar stuff—but Meseldžija puts a new spin on it. He uses thick-paint impressionism, based on his plein air studies, to convey mossy forests and gnarly creatures.

The scene of the two giants hunched over the fire of their cave kitchen is worth the $19.95 price tag. In a “making-of” afterword section, the artist shows his development sketches for the grotesque monsters. He says he “searched for inspiration among old people, beggars, drunkards, and even the mentally handicapped.”
More from Flesk Publications
Petar Meseldžija.
Amazon listing
Lines and Colors post.


Jason Juta said...

There's a good interview with the artist on the Flesk Publications website - with some close ups of the paintings (astounding). Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm bothered by the quote. Mentally handicapped people have enough trouble in life without being turned into grotesque creatures. Beautiful art, but that puts me right off.

Dan Gurney said...

twilightcat, I'm bothered too.

Not only do the mentally handicapped deserve compassion, but also old people, drunkards, and beggars.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with that, Dan.

Julia Lundman said...

Well, fantasy comes from some source of inspiration. I don't think the artist is mocking anyone. i think he was inspired to create all new creatures based on what already exists. Leonardo Da Vinci documented extreme forms of humanity too, btw.

Artists in film and animation often look at variants of humanity for the inspiration of their own designs. I don't think there is anything wrong with that at all.

Unknown said...

I'm with Julia. I doubt the artist was looking to depict any type of person in a negative way. I look everywhere and at everything to get the right inspirations for my work. It's actually refreshing when you see an artist go to these extra lengths to create authenticity since too many artists these days seem to settle for whatever reference material they can find on the first page of a Google search.

My Pen Name said...

When i read that quote I immediately thought of the difference in compassion between it and Sorolla's painting of Padre Jofre defending an insane man
a reminder that just a few centuries ago children stone people with mental problems (the father founded one of the first asylums)

its pretty un-imaginative to use such models - perhaps better for evil would be pictures of greedy unethical bankers like those so often in the news...

My Pen Name said...

here is a better image of the sorolla painting:

Max West said...

The art reminds me of contemporary fantasy artists like Larry Elmore and the Brothers Hildebrandt as well as past ones like Hieronymous Bosch.

James Gurney said...

Very interesting issue that you all bring up, with well-expressed points on all sides. While I agree that it’s not nice to make fun of marginalized people, I would applaud what Petar is doing in the realm of folklore.

It may not sound politically correct to talk about being inspired by "drunks and beggars and mentally handicapped people," but it’s honest, and it’s artistically valid in my view.

An artist must draw inspiration from everyone around him or her, and the raw impressions go through a “fiction filter” that turns them into the stuff of dreams and childlike perceptions.

The most interesting characters in folklore—witches, giants, ogres, and trolls—are a sort of dreamlike exaggeration of the strange figures that occupy the fringes of the world of a child --or the child in us.

My Pen Name: Regarding Sorolla’s compassionate portrayal of mentally and physically challenged people, I would add his powerful painting “Sad Inheritance,” showing the joy of young polio victims at being near the sea--it's beautiful and heartbreaking without being sentimental: Link to image

soutchay said...

I was lucky enough to see your painting and Petar's at the very first Spectrum show in NY several years ago. Amazing in person!

A. L. Ryder said...

I am blown away by the beauty of Petar Meseldzija's work. Thank you for posting this.

And, I agree with Julia. I don't think Meseldzija was mocking anyone... possibly it would have been more politic of him just not to mention his inspirations in the first place, but he was being honest.

Perhaps the fault is with our culture which idolizes beauty in the first place? If our heroic stories centered around an old, disfigured protagonist, an artist could simply paint such a person as a direct reference for the hero and not in turn be accused of social insensitivity. As it is, those that society considers "ugly" almost always end up in a villainous role in fairy tales-- ugly trolls, old crippled witches, etc. When has there ever been an "old, bony, traumatically disfigured princess" in a fairy tale, instead of the traditional flaxen-haired beauty? Rare is the story which underlines the importance of an "ugly" character in their own society. (One reason why "Shrek" was so refreshing when it first came out.)

And as a side note, for a refreshing literary excursion in this vein, the book "Precious Bane" is one of my favorites.

All in all, however, our society seems to generally want to hear stories of a beautiful, probably somewhat athletic hero against am ugly, villainous witch (or fat, ugly troll, or whathaveyou). So the stories are written as such, and the artist paints the characters accordingly, and in the meantime will need to use the relevant references (of the elderly, the bony, or disfigured) to paint them convincingly.