Adam saks Prints

A lot has been written about Adam Saks. His motives, his way of transferring his work between different techniques, and his strong expressions are inspiring for writers. Not because his images are ›literary‹ in a common sense but they compile components – characters and signals – which are challenging for those who try to verbalise his highly visual art.

I note that all of those who have written about Adam Saks before, quite soon got into tattoos in their texts. Surely, this does not entirely depend upon the fact that he himself has referred to tattoos and other specific corporeal symbols as an inspiration for his art. There also lies an immediate confirmation in such an interpretation which is very tempting. Neither can I approach this subject without taking it into account. So let’s get it done right away.

It’s true: The surface of the image appears tattooed, the symbols have no space around them. They either float freely in a blank and timeless nothing or they are actually applied onto a smooth surface like on a tense skin.

Eccentric sources for Adam Saks are the traditional tattoos of the French Foreign Legionnaires, dramatic and defeatist. An early death for those soldiers is not only difficult to avoid but to a high degree most likely. Contemporary tattoos are more presentable. They advertise a desired attitude or even a ›perso-nality‹. Although, most of the symbols are worn out clichés. Hence, also boring. 

Adam Saks’ ›tattoos‹ never become patterns or decorations alone. They are loaded with lead-heavy iconography and in its compilation it sparks between the disparate elements. So far about the tattoos.

What strikes me as inescapable references are the many sustainable bands and intertwined threads to the medieval fatal motif of Memento Mori (Remember Death!) and baroque vanitas motives. Heavy compositions which could not be misunderstood or avoided at the time. The evoked symbols appear in Adam Saks’ work but where is the focus? There is no focal point in the image, no inevitable signal. Instead, the meaning is created in the beholder’s mind – like completing a puzzle of currently appropriate combinations and priorities.

Pretty frequently, Adam Saks exceeds the boundaries of techniques. He combines different tangible methods, such as stam-ping the canvas with linoleum cuts. For his painting, he strives to transfer the spontaneity of the watercolour into the painting ... and for the painting he wishes to take the same step towards the graphic prints; an instant gesture despite the palpable inertia of the print plate and wooden block. As he processes the plate with very fast tools like dental drills and corrosive acids, he successfully tests different methods of handwriting and tin-ted drawing. The etchings, therefore, come even closer to the ›tattoos‹. With chisels, drills and other more unconventional tools, he attacks the plate to make lasting marks on the high-gloss copper surface.

Adam Saks always chooses well-formulated titles for his exhibitions, often with literary references. His latest exhibition in Oslo was called »What’s done in the Dark, will be brought to the Light«, the Biblical words of the Apostles, both Luke and Mark. Earlier this year, when he presented paintings and prints in a large solo exhibition at Kunstverein Reutlingen, it was called »Inhaling Darkness, Exhaling Galaxies«. In Helsinki, his exhibition at Galerie Forsblom was titled »I am a Ghost I am a Totem I am a Still Life«. An exhibition in Berlin was called »Atropa«, after the poisonous but healing Atropa belladonna, and when he was exhibiting at the ARoS in Aarhus a few years ago, the title was »Visual Voodoo«. Throughout, it is the darkness and the forces of darkness which rule and that permeate his world. As if he were descending down into the dark and obscured just to be able to return to the light.

Without a doubt, Adam Saks holds printmaking in high regards. The graphic work is, in the first place, as he himself expresses it, as a kind of ›letter‹ from which the painted ›words‹ originate.

The intimacy and craftsmanship of printmaking measure the act of painting, regardless of its format, and they often determine the technical conditions. But the prints are the ›easier‹ and more accessible part of his artistry. This has to do with the labour itself. It is more physical and pleasurable. In addition, he cannot work on this entirely on his own. He has to communicate with his printers; there must be a straightforward dialogue for him to achieve the results he strives for.

Even his collage-like technique is particularly suitable for his printmaking, as it is necessary to prepare a matrix which then can be manifold. Often the images contain text, integrated and meaningful. A kind of symbiosis surely derived from his parallel interest in artist’s books. Here, as in all his graphic practice, he is both a bearer of tradition and a renovator.

In Adams Saks’ graphic images there is a ›roughness‹ and originality that makes me think of Paul Gauguin. But opening the reference box I find on top of it Edvard Munch and his sparse technique with cut-out characters – pictorial elements individually stained and then reassembled before printing. Adam Saks’ woodcuts, often large in format, are also a kind of puzzle with each piece separately coloured and rejoined on the print slab before paper and blankets cover them. The figure-saw has chewed itself through the simple plywood sheets and the surface has broken into contours like scars or open wounds. This very ornamentation Adams Saks shares not only with Munch but further down the line with Nolde, Jorn, Warhol, and the Japanese woodcutters.

The human skulls, the hourglasses, the rotten fruit, and the wilted flowers, all remind us of time being measured. Adam Saks urges us not to waste any valuable moments on insignifi-cancies. When the candle light is blown out and the smoke of extinction coils up into a demonic signal, it is important to read and interpret the message before the smoke is dispersed completely. 

Sune Nordgren