Dune is an incredibly diverse and culturally rich story. Frank Herbert introduced us to many interesting cultures, factions, and places, which influenced the entire broad thematic spectrum of Dune. Despite this, Herbert was not famous for his elaborate descriptions of places, landscapes, or costumes. Instead, he focused on a varied narrative that presented the viewer with different perspectives and heavily delves into characters’ psychology.
The lack of a consistent stylistic vision of the world presented by Herbert made this subject open to several artists. When we take a look at the film adaptations of Herbert’s work, we can see that each of them approached the visual aspect of this world in a different way. You can see this most clearly in Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s unfinished version of Dune, and Villeneuve’s film. Jodorowsky intended to go for a visual extravaganza, collaborating with famed artist Mobius. Mobius’ concept art later inspired many artists with its creativity, psychedelic and fantasy.
Villeneuve, on the other hand, focuses on the rawness and brutality of Herbert’s world. He doesn’t hide the inspiration he draws from the colors of John Schoenherr‘s works that appear on the illustrated edition of Dune. Even Herbert himself once pointed out that this vision is the closest to what he had imagined.
However, there is another artist who has influenced Denis Villeneuve’s vision in a much greater way: Wojtek Siudmak.
The Works of Wojtek Siudmak are beautiful and powerful hypnotism. Once encountered, they remain rooted in our memory like intimate revelations about ourselves. It seems as if the artist’s raw material originated from our own unconscious. His vision captivates the viewers with their profundity. Though nobody has yet managed to crack open the door to the future, Wojtek Siudmak already anticipates it and watches, with his curious eyes, eternal beings floating in a world where time and space are no longer constrained by the fundamental laws of nature.Denis Villeneuve, The Worlds Of Wojtek Siudmak, Rebis, 2021
Wojtek Siudmak has been creating interstellar hyper-realistic illustrations related to Dune for many years. The most famous works of his are from the Polish edition published by Rebis, which have become a unique project worldwide. His works have become an inspiration for many artists like Federico Fellini, Jean-Jacques Annaud and George Lucas, who mentioned that “there’s a powerful tranquility in Wojtek Siudmak’s creations, and endless to explore and invent”.
Exploring the world of Dune through the perspective of Siudmak’s images is an amazing experience on its own. The world he envisions is based on complex and multilayered storylines dealing with messianism, criticism of religion up to ecology, and even tribalism.
In his images, people become victims of their arrogance and blindness in the desire for evolution, which turned out to be a cul-de-sac. In these illustrations, humanity is caught in a conflict between rationalism and the surreal creation of the world that is manifested in such magical and abstract imagery. These paintings exude sensuality, intimacy, and eroticism, which is the highlighting of the human soul as its bodily manifestation and power of consciousness.
Siudmak portrays many iconic things from Dune in a way that intrigues and thrills with ingenuity and surreal empiricism. In addition to drawing from Siudmak’s sense of monumentalism, female persuasion, and oneiric atmosphere, Villeneuve also takes inspiration from his architecture. Many of Siudmak’s works show monumental, brutalist structures, which with their ancient appearance refer to (in this world) prehistoric cultures such as Greek, Egyptian or Gothic.
In the world of Siudmak, a man is faced with a question of what reality is and whether a man can control and change it with his mind, adjusting time and matter to his perception. The works of the Polish artist will always stay with me. I am glad that they have become an integral part of the world of Dune. Today, Siudmak is one of the icons of this universe.