The Unsettling Beauty of Disturbing Art

7 Min Read
Artist: Skirill, DeviantArt

O P I N I O N – A R T

Tahmid Shuvro

There is some kind of beauty in the dark, in the obscurity. There’s a heartbreaking and sentimental aspect to art that’s supposed to frighten human beings. Art is actually supposed to cause a reaction, typically a pleasant one. But, is it the same case for all? The Disturbing Art is supposed to induce terror and revulsion of demons, horrific images, dystopian structure, and even blood and gore. It’s awkward and gorgeous at the same time.

We are drawn into horror stories for the same reasons; we are attracted to this kind of art. We get a high adrenaline rush from being frightened. This kind of art is like watching a series of horrible events where people get killed, but you cannot avoid watching them. It’s quite comforting that we are not the objects of torture and horror in the theatrical performance. We’re not the monster; we’re not defaced; we’re all passive extremist actors and spectators.

Disturbing art is an approach to art that rejects the triviality of sensory-oriented artistic philosophy. It works more towards discovering the experiential environments that art brings to us. This approach does not involve reducing the aesthetic pleasure of artworks at all, but it is to put them in a much richer setting — in which much more magical work can be performed with liberty and unsettling part of the human mind.

Grotesque art is a vague class in medieval fantasy. It is not easy to describe because, across history, the definition of what might displease us has shifted. Other than the grotesque, disturbing art is often startling, odd, vain, exhibitionist, lewd, and masochistic — and that depicts an underlying surrealistic part of human nature.

To the masses, fine art is Rubens, Michelangelo, Mozart, Raphael. Albeit classical fine art is not specifically contiguous with spirituality, the love for classical fine art is closely connected to spirituality; and that is definitely a wholesome gateway. But this self-contained and somewhat cramped practice has been under pressure since the arrival of contemporary art – surprisingly many years ago — in the 19th century. The principles and methods of high culture needed to be compensated for and justified, which eventually happened.  

Grotesque art is provided as a framework for every created presentational content in this absolutely dull universe. Our emphasis must be on the gruesome art itself and on its very tangible qualities and characteristics.

Let’s look at one of the most horrifying artworks done by Spanish artist Francisco Goya. The piece we are talking about, Saturn Devouring His Son, is one of 14 Black Portraits painted by Goya directly on his house walls between 1819 and 1823. Throughout history, Saturn (in Roman Mythology) and Cronus (in Greek) have always been the subject of arts. Following a prophecy that a potential child would overthrow him, Cronus ate his newborn sons. Most painters have portrayed Cronus classic, heroic, physically strong; despite his cannibalistic nature. While painting this kind early in his career, Goya created Cronus as a deity who is actually trapped in the midst of devouring, not an infant but a young man. Here, Saturn is a naked beast of a guy with eyes that are afraid – Goya paints them wide and wild; almost too large; full of shame, terror, starvation, and everything one could expect.

The artworks of the Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński are another example of the disturbing art. The paintings of this weird guy either evoke the results of a grotesque tragedy by the painter, or only the perplexed underside of human consciousness. Zdzisław Beksiński has been working in various art fields throughout his long life: sculpture, photography, graphic design, illustration, and painting. Beksiński, as an artist, was obsessed with death, decay, and anonymity. However, he was also known for his interest in eroticism, abstractionism, and Eastern mysticism.

A variety of sadomasochistic illustrations were made during the 1960s. He continued to work on his most popular phase — his “fantastic series” from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s. Hellish landscapes portray eerie gruesome characters, and dark, unearthly architecture is a prevalent theme in these evanescent works. After that, his style has shifted since the so-called fantastic era and reached a stage he described as “Gothic”. The Gothic paintings portray deformed heads and fewer dream-like characters that exhibit particular plastic harmony.

In recent days, I may note Patricia Piccinini, an Australian artist, who has tried to examine how contemporary ideas about nature — the organic and the artificial structure alter culture. Her creative works centre biotechnology topics, such as gene editing and the sequencing of the human genome, with a scientifically ambivalent approach. Her strange mutant sculptures, made of silicone and fibreglass, have a promising future for engaging with people. Her notorious 2002 masterpiece Young Family shows a woman with her infants. The artist assumed that this creature’s main aim would be to collect organ transplants, but she also has her own children whom she loves profoundly. Thus, while mankind has granted the intent a special purpose, it nevertheless needs to live for its own sake. The spectator can only feel compassion for this vile beast.

At the end, this idea of disturbing art is far more than a form — genre of the specific subject, offering a paradigm that recognises this definition as a collapse of societal limits while agreeing to realities. It is a cultural movement that still takes humanistic discourse as its primary subject.


Tahmid Shuvro prefers watching philosophical and psychological videos to sleeping.


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