Roy Adzak, discovering the British painter and photographer

Portraits de trois Rolling Stones, Ron Woods, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman (circa 180), et leur empreintes thermographiques (tirages photographiques et lettres adhésives sur papier).

Posted Nov 4, 2022, 6:01 a.m.

While the Louvre presents the reality of things through the greatest masterpieces of its kind, at the Loeve & Co gallery, rue de Montmorency, in the Marais, it is the imprint of things that it is is in action with the exhibition devoted to a painter-photographer with a romantic career who emerges from the oblivion into which a complicated heritage had plunged him.

Royston Wright was born in England in 1927. Abandoning his engineering studies, this conjurer’s son felt the wings of Indiana Jones grow and set off in search of traces of lost civilisations. After two world tours in the company of his friend Mosley, it is in Afghanistan, while digging the earth of an archaeological site, that he falls seriously ill. He is cared for for several months by a young Afghan archaeologist named Adzak who saves him from a death announced as inevitable. To celebrate his recovery, in homage to the one to whom he considers he owes his new life, Royston Wright is now called Roy Adzak, the young Afghan adopting for himself the name of Wright.

Excavations resume. They are rewarded with the discovery of a splendid amphora. Roy Adzak and his team extricate her, collect her and bring her to safety. The next day, at sunrise, Roy Adzak is back on site. Stupor. At the very place where he had taken the amphora, it is there again. He, however, has nothing of a mystic, believes to attend the resurrection of Christ in the opposite direction. It is to a ray of low sun that we owe this miracle: a banal optical illusion means that the imprint left by the amphora no longer appears in hollow but in relief.

“Roller (Negative Object)”, 1966 (oil and plaster on wood), presented, until December 2, at the exhibition Roy Adzak-Negative Objects, 1958-1974, Loeve & Co Marais gallery, in Paris.

“Roller (Negative Object)”, 1966 (oil and plaster on wood), presented, until December 2, at the exhibition Roy Adzak-Negative Objects, 1958-1974, Loeve & Co Marais gallery, in Paris.©Fabrice Gousset/Courtesy of Loeve&Co, Paris

From miracle to revelation, Roy Adzak will become the painter of fingerprints, tirelessly and victoriously seeking various means of reproducing this illusion. He digs into the mystery, all the mysteries of seeing things that don’t exist and existing things that we don’t see. He studies the masters of perspective, the thinkers of light, from Aristotle to Alhazen, from the Byzantine mathematician Anthémius de Tralles to Nicephore Niepce. He moved to Paris in 1955, built a studio near Montparnasse. His first works are paintings in cement, they represent alignments of bottles and vases which are reminiscent of the canvases of Giorgio Morandi, except that, depending on the lighting and the position of the viewer, the bottles and vases seem to come out of the picture.

He achieved enough success for the famous gallery owner Iris Clert, high priestess of contemporary art, to take him into her stable alongside Gaston Chaissac, Yves Klein, Raymond Hains, Pol Bury, Lucio Fontana, to mention only the most famous… today. Adzak molds imprints of vases, naked women, light bulbs, televisions, jackets, fruits and vegetables which he preserves, inside the molding of the imprint, mummification, he molds Calder, Meret Oppenheim and the legs of his gallery owner, a revolver and the reliefs of a meal from which he obtains, through a play of light, the retinal resurgence. In 1977, he learned that he had lymphoma.

What is this thing he doesn’t see that will kill him? Illusion of life, reality of death, would it be possible to capture, capture by some radiographic processes, the malignant tumors that invade his lymph and, failing that, to extract them from his body as he did with the Afghan amphora? , give an artistic representation? Leave to die as much as it is useful for something. He throws himself into it, headlong, it is the case to say it, using and exhausting nearly twenty techniques (gamma rays, infrared or ultraviolet, polarized light, scannography, thermography, autoradiography, etc.) , all meant to allow him to delve deep into human archaeology. The Loeve & Co gallery will organize in the near future an exhibition of works from this tragic, magnificent, humorous period.

Photograph of Mick Jagger and thermographs (circa 1980), page from the book “The Thermography Trace” by Roy Adzak.

Photograph of Mick Jagger and thermographs (circa 1980), page from the book “The Thermography Trace” by Roy Adzak.©Courtesy of Loeve&Co, Paris

In the meantime, and to say how much Adzak’s work interested major collectors at the time, the Rolling Stones called on him for the cover of their album “Emotional Rscue”, released on June 20, 1980. Considered by the fans of the group as the most disastrous of the Stones’ covers, it nevertheless offered our master of the imprint planetary notoriety. Not sure that this consoled him for his death, which occurred on January 30, 1987. He left a studio full of works that he took care to put away to make a museum, and that will have to be shared, or rather argue, his two brothers, a companion and a son Lucian, then 5 years old, whom he did not take care to recognize. No amicable agreement being reached between the parties, the justice system imposes the seals on Roy Adzak’s workshop.

The famous Rolling Stones

The famous Rolling Stones “Emotional Rescue” album cover that will give Roy Adzak worldwide visibility©DR

They will not be broken until thirty-five years later, on October 11, 2021, in the presence of Lucian Wright, accompanied by two clerks, five movers, and the two owners of the Loeve & Co gallery, Hervé Loevenbruck and Stéphane Corréard, now responsible of this rich collection of 400 works and documentation in which the gallery owners discover the model of a biographical book that Roy Adzak did not have time to finish and, last but not least, the photographic making of the session of shots taken in 1979 at the radiologist’s on avenue Charles Floquet, Thermographic images that were to be used in the composition of the Rolling Stones cover. Among the thirty shots, each more historic than the other, we recognize Jerry Hall, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, and Mike Jagger himself, hairy and bearded like an Unabomber after ten years on the run, the panties down, being thermographed. The star in the simplest device inside the most complex of devices.

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