“The only true invention is happiness,” once declared Roland Topor, showing his customary dark humour. Since his untimely departure in 1997, the artist – who co-founded the Panic movement in 1962 with poet/film-maker Fernando Arrabel and scriptwriter/visual artist Alexandro Jodorowsky – has left behind a unique and prolific oeuvre of work. The BNF is now dedicating a triumphant retrospective to Topor, with works drawn from the national archives and donated by his son, Nicolas: “He never stopped creating, coming up with ideas, composing hard drawings and tender drawings,” the latter recalls.
A cartoonist for satirical newspaper Hara-Kiri between 1961 and 1966, Roland Topor always avoided walking the pre-ordained path of the cursed artist that lay ahead of him as a painter. Instead, it was through drawing and writing that this former agent provocateur from the Paris School of Fine Arts could truly articulate his unique, inventive and unconventional approach to art. An indefatigable and ever-curious reader, he was determined to construct images inspired by the texts of the authors who he considered kindred spirits, such as Jacques Sternberg, Boris Vian and Marcel Aymé.
Reflecting the multiplicity of an artist who defies classification, the exhibition has been split into four parts, each representing a different facet of Topor’s oeuvre. The different sections comprise his press sketches, his illustrations, his work for the entertainment industry – including drawings for cinema, television, theatre or the opera – and his written output as the designer and performer of books.
“One has to be dishonest, selfish and immoral. It’s called self-defence,” Topor was fond of saying in his deadpan style. This exhibition is a journey into a complex intellect, forever illuminated by flashes of humour.