Adam Adach is a painter, born in 1962 in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki. He lives and works in Warsaw.
He graduated in veterinary medicine in Warsaw (SGGW, 1981) and emigrated to France in the late 1980s. Between 1989 and 1996 he worked with children in psychiatric hospitals and in communities for the disabled in L’Arche, France and the UK, where he conducted therapy through art. He graduated from the Ecole Supèrieure des Beaux-Arts in Lyon and summa cum laude from the Ecole Nationale Supèrieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA) in Paris in 1995. In 2006, the artist returned to Poland.
In 2004 the Centre Pompidou in Paris bought his polyptych Ostatnie lato (Last summer, 2002) and in 2007 he was nominated for the Marcel Duchamp award, the most important prize for young artists living in France. The artist is represented by a few galleries both in Europe and in the US: in Paris (Galerie Jean Brolly), in Vienna (Galerie Nächst St.Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder), Berlin and Zürich (Arndt & Partner) and in New York (D'Amelio Terras Gallery).
Adam Adach debuted in 1997 during an exhibition of art school graduates in Paris. He was noticed by the critics and a reviewer from Figaroscope wrote:
Buraglio and Velikovic’s disciple makes us believe in painting. Using simple motifs and repetitions, where apples and pears reign, he creates pictures that are both elegant and ironic. His point of view is sharp and underlined by an amazing control over the pictorial matter.
Adach’s career took off when Hans Ulrich Obrist invited him to take part in the Urgent Painting exhibition (2002, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris). In 2003 the Parisian gallery owner Jean Brolly organized an individual display of the artist’s work in his gallery and also showed his works at FIAC and Art Paris art fairs.
In an interview with Julia Garimorth published in a catalogue of an individual exhibition in Chagall Museum in Nice the artist mentions that he returned to figurative painting after years of searching for the right means of expression in abstract and processual art.
It stems from a need to be part of people's live, of my friends’ lives, of looking for a direct reference to the semantic plot of what I paint.
Adam Adach’s painting speaks of memory, both personal and historical. In his paintings, private motifs, often referencing childhood memories, intertwine with references to history and collective experience. The painter’s inspiration is often anonymous photographs, newspaper scraps, and book illustrations, as well as scenes recorded both with a camera and in a notebook. This whole world of images, after an artistic elaboration, loses its documental value, but gains a more universal meaning, although still connected to history. Adach’s painting is immersed in personal meanings, but also stratifies into different contexts, has no narrative, but is equipped with emblematic anecdotes.
In some of his works the artist comes back to the abstract: for example in his diptychs he connects figurative images with abstract elements (Aelita tam i z powrotem (Aelita Back and Forward, 2006); Antonina Traczyk, awangardzistka w układaniu cegieł (Antonina Traczyk, Avant-garde Brick Layer, 2006); Wyprawa kapitana Blooda (Captain Blood’s Expedition, 2006). The dyptich Aelita Back and Forward consists of a small canvas showing a scene from one of the first Soviet science fiction films, directed in 1924 by Protazanow. The main protagonist is a princess from Mars who appears in the builder Los’ dreams. He’s determined to meet her. Destructive attempts to realize a utopia are shown on a second, much bigger canvas, where a cube’s form falls into a dark pit. Antonina Traczyk, a work leader from 1949, is accompanied by an image saturated with diagonal lines with no end and no beginning, a negation of the logic of construction.
Adam Adach often paints on the basis of a found image – dug out from history, his own biography or captured with a camera from the world around us. His painting is not critical, as in critical art, which tries to initiate a social discussion - but seems more contemplative as if it was the artist’s return to himself, a way of establishing new relations with the world. It is a dialogue, sometimes even a conflict with reality. That’s why the initial material which inspires Adach is reshaped, deformed, and enriched by an elaborate context. Sometimes it even becomes a game with different images which create a broader statement when connected, such as the polyptych Prediction (2007).
Adach often connects autobiographical motifs with the broader realm of culture and history. As a result, his paintings can be read on different levels and are filled with encoded messages that can be understood only through the author’s commentary, although the artist prefers to build new narratives which create independent stories on his exhibitions:
What I’m most interested in are the relations that appear between them. It is not about some arbitrary “masterpiece” but about a flow of personal images that mix with others, rooted in collective memory.
His art is reminiscent of a hypertext with its non-linear narrative and indeterminate structure, which allows an attentive spectator to achieve satisfaction through finding unexpected links. That is why Adach’s paintings seem very active on many levels.
For example, on the painting Utopia (2004), which shows a deserted amusement park with the lone structure of a Ferris wheel, a careful viewer will notice a reference to the constructivist Tatlin’s project Monument to the Third International, and in the series of landscapes covered in snow, painted between 2002 and 2003 echoes of the romantic atmosphere of K.D. Friedrich’s paintings. A picture from 2007 shows an industrial shredder (Industrial Destruction of Documents), which destroys acts, documents, registers, and other traces of history. Its gigantic, black abyss is a limbo of sorts – a purgatory or even an open source Internet system of the same name, which is like an almost eternal, unlimited data archive.
Adach’s paintings are reflections of images put through the filter of the subjective artist’s view. This view is understood in the broader category of communicating with the world. The change of optics always gives the chance of reaching unexpected similarities, like the one of the alienated, monumental government buildings (Ministerstwo Komunikacji, Ministerstwo Edukacji, Ministerstwo Zdrowia / Ministry of Communication, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, 2006) and the oppressive gate to a storehouse (Brama / Gate 2007).
When passed through the filter of photography or press reproduction, the objects recorded by Adach and translated into the language of painting lose their ephemerality and urgency. What they gain is expressiveness and range, which could be the meaning and value of the creation of these works. It’s also a form of critical art – it engages in modern debates about power (Gabinet / Cabinet, 2007), settlement with the past (Aula, 2007) or the dangers of right-wing nostalgia (Wilk / Wolf, Tania historia / Cheap history, 2007). In the paintings from the Ministry trilogy he looks for traces of totalitarian ideologies which remain in architectural monuments and, taking them out of their context, he points to the timeless beauty of these melancholic images. The names of the ministries show areas mostly focused on relations with people, but the buildings on Adach’s images seem more like fortresses which only exist for the sake of themselves.
Adach’s intellectually intense art gains a cohesive, sophisticated artistic message. The paintings are built from a collision between two media: photography and painting, are beneficiaries of both of them. An intriguing ephemerality and apparent fortuity of the photo frame is connected to colour enriched by the artist with an intense, expressive value. The inner space of the paintings, built with subtle lighting and colouring, gains a glazed depth and a matte closeness. The pleasure of Adach’s art is due to the satisfaction of finding Barthes’ punctum, connected with a rare pictorial sensitivity.
In 1999 Adach wrote:
Fra Angelico’s works (the frescoes from the St. Marco Convent in Florence), as well as reading books by the philosopher and critic of art, Georges Didi-Huberman, have had a strong impact on my painting. Three red dots on a green surface for Fra Angelico are flowers in a Biblical garden, identical dots on the feet of Jesus become his stigmas (…) In my works I speak of the amorphous and of the dynamics of symptoms, signs and phenomenons, of figurativeness and figure, not only as an analogy, but as a homological obviousness, a translocation of a place, a screen of reality and so on.
Author: Ewa Gorządek, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, November 2008, translated by N. Mętrak-Ruda, November 2015.
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