By Katarzyna Rzehak
“I first met Adam at Podlaska Gallery. I was interested in art and attended vernissages at which you could always meet him. Once, he was invited to my secondary school, where during a visual arts class he told us stories about his paintings. I really got keen on him at that point. I attended my second grade then and already then knew I was going to take my chance to become a Fine Arts Academy student. And I got no surprised when he asked me to pose for a photo. In Biała, everyone knows that Adam would catch for young girls to make photos of, and then make his paintings on this basis. Some of them laugh at it, and consider Adam to be a freak, or think he is catting around, and so refuse him. But I knew that if he asked me one day for the favour, then I wouldn’t refuse. One of those exhibition opening days, I was fussing about the gallery, while Adam was sneaking behind me noiselessly, just like a cat. He can really stay on a lookout for a woman he’s set his sights on. When I turned my head away, he only said: ‘Come with me, let’s take a picture’.
And, we went to the park. It was in the autumn, and a late hour’s sun was shining. Adam was only saying what I was supposed to do, and I followed his instructions: ‘Open your eyes, now squint’em, penetrate me with your sight’. In the way I behaved there was no coquetry of sorts, for I knew he was treating me like a model. I paint myself, so I could understand what he really needed. I know he likes it about a girl when her mouth is distinct and her neck long. He looks for a nice positioning of the hands, for interesting poses or cuts. Once, we were taking pictures in a train compartment, ’cause Adam liked the ‘cold’ light of the fluorescent lamp. When I visit his gallery with my hair cut short, or wearing a blouse with shoulder straps, he would instantly catch his camera – a Zenith reflex, with which he doesn’t ever part. The other day, he arranged a session devoted entirely to my lips. Then, someone saw those pictures, and said to me: ‘Why do you allow him to do such things with you, he’s exploiting you, isn’t he?’
But I do not think it is so. During a session, Adam doesn’t make me do anything. Oh yes it happens that he’d conceive a pose, and then I’d say to him, ‘I wouldn’t ever sit like that. This is unnatural.’ Then he would say, ‘That’s OK, do it as you wish to.’
People tend not to understand Adam, some even call him ‘lustful, disgusting’. But I can see chastity and subtlety in his painted works. Of course they are sensual, but never vulgar.”
Adam is an eccentric. At the time everyone in Biała wore jeans clothes, he wore his granddad’s stuff – a re-tailored jacket and creased trousers. Once, he asked me to accompany him at his acquaintances’ wedding party. He dressed himself for the occasion in a prune-blue jacket, maroon shirt, orange T-shirt, some trousers, and a pair of red socks. I do like it about him, his being extraordinary. I knew he painted young girls and was keen on seeing what it is all like. I offered posing for him myself. But I told him, the condition is, my face remains hidden. Poor Adam!, he had to heat his room up just for me, as I’m not ever going to take my clothes off when it’s cold.
I posed for nudes, with my head turned away. But he outsmarted me! He painted my figure in such a way that, even though no face could be seen in the picture, anyone who watched the canvass, shouted out: ‘But that’s Barb!’ He had managed to grasp some profile feature, something which was so characteristic that no-one was getting any doubts who the portrayed person was. Perhaps he could do it because he had known me for so long? I was getting disconcerted by the fact that we’d known each other so well. I’d prefer to pose for someone being totally alien to me. There were moments I was getting shy and then closed my eyes. Just like baby who thinks he or she isn’t there anymore with his or her eyelids closed tight.
I also posed for pictures which Adam showed later on at an exhibition in the Gallery in Biała. Before the event, he behaved like a gentleman and allowed me to select those I liked. Today, as I tried to see what has ensued from our co-operation, I have come to the conclusion that Adam’s art is tempting and frightening at the same time. Demoniac on the one hand, full of hidden fear, and warm with human feelings on the other. I will never forget one of his bas-reliefs showing a thorough, sensual mouth. Adam hammered several small nails into the mouth’s outer contour, in a row. These nails could look like a torture tool, or, like beams of light.
“With Adam, it goes like this. I walk into the Gallery he works in, and,
‘Come on in, I’ll take a picture of you.’
And, this isn’t gonna be some photo session in a professional atelier. Adam simply tells me to stand somewhere there, gets some painting illuminating lamps to shed light on that spot, or screws a colour lamp bulb someplace else. He would play music, most preferably, a Joy Division or a Craftwerk stuff, as he listens to some of these strange bands from the eighties. He’d simply say, ‘Stay there, just like that, just do it’. And so I do it. And am getting fed up with it in no time. This is very tiring: turn your head left, put your hand behind you, step forward. I can bear it like that just for a few minutes, and then I say:
‘No, Adam, forget it, I don’t want it like that any more.’
And then he’d stop. And this is why he can only get a few pictures at one such session I attend. I know he could’ve painted one, or perhaps two, pictures out of all that. And I’ve never seen any of them. Instead, I’ve got a self-portrait of Adam. I once asked him to give me some picture, and this is what he gave me then. I hanged it above my bed. Don’t know why, really.”
Girls talked to Katarzyna Rzehak