The exhibition is the very first comprehensive presentation of Hanzlová’s work in her native country, covering three decades of her artistic practice and including a new series of photographs, conceived especially for the exhibition in the National Gallery Prague.
“The path that I take is a path back to look into the future”, thus Jitka Hanzlová explains her artistic pursuit and the way she perceives time and history. Born 1958 in Náchod and raised in Rokytnik in Eastern Bohemia (former Czechoslovakia), Hanzlová left her native country in 1982 for Essen, Germany where she studied photography at the visual communication department of the University of Essen. Developed in between two different cultures and political systems, her photographic oeuvre, at once truthful and poetic, reflects the recent historical transformations and elaborates an identity formation of a future emancipated subject in a post-Cold War world.
From Rokytnik, 1990–94 (a memory trace, time capsule) towards Water, 2013–2019 (a source and flow, the praise of life), through Bewohner, 1994–1996 (a testimony, an evidence of presence) and Vanitas, 2008–2012 (passing of time and disappearance), Hanzlová’s alchemy of silence labors the world of critical intimacy which foregrounds the subject matter’s social, cultural and political sense of belonging. Jitka Hanzlová’s oeuvre carries a silence; each image seems a vehicle of silence. It delivers a stillness; not the stillness of the photographic medium though as Hanzlová’s pictures are moments set in motion; we trace them, follow them, step by step, frame by frame, location by location. From one person to another, a collection of faces and gestures unfolds in an almost cinematic sequence of gazes in suspense and bodies in freeze. Eyes confronting eyes, quietly, in expectation. Silence appears always in plural, silence with a companion of silence in a looped sequence of absence and presence. There are abysses of silence within me, Hanzlová follows Clarice Lispector’s character in formation, Silence isn’t the void, it’s the completeness. Her silences are allies, amplifiers, as images pulsate and breathe, whispering the silence, mirroring it endlessly; these are images to be listened to, repeatedly, over and over again. Rokytnik is the artist’s silent dialogue with the place she comes from and belongs to while Bewohner confronts the difference of a new life to come. Solitude and a willingness to coexist, nostalgia and the allure of an unknown place balance one another in symbiosis and peace. Tonga (1993) and Brixton (2002) capture the Other through the lens of the Other. Female (1997–2000) continues the artist’s portrayal of vulnerability, exposed but not unveiled, in search of emancipation and self-empowerment. Hanzlová’s frames are relational, within them and in-between them; they construct an architecture of exchange, an uninterrupted passage, granting a mutual immersion of the portrayed one and the background, as well as of the one following the other in a cycle of photographic gestures and appearances. Hier (1998–2010) maps the layers of identity in a psychological vertigo of sites and personages, seasons and geographies. Difference and repetition, a role’s rehearsal, testimonies of presence – such is Hanzlová’s incessant pursuit of a personal biography in a new world. Forest (2000–2005) is a landscape of stillness, the nature’s mystery, its silent self. Nocturnal images simultaneously conceal and reveal, keeping the suspense of an uncanny reverie. Everything is nature in Hanzlová’s ocean of tranquillity; a human being, a flower, a horse, an open field, an urban site, a fish. But also - a memory, a history, time and the present are a nature-like, nature conditioned and liaised, in a silent conspiracy, unavoidably. Horse (2007–14) is a celebration of nature; a pictorial laboratory of intimacy, the utmost poetic delirium of an adored subject matter. Vanitas and There Is Something I Don’t Know (2000–2012) are the portraits of timelessness and immortality. Silence is Hanzlová’s rite of passage. It fills up the frame as we gaze down the abyss of time, reflecting the ephemerality and recurrence. Master narratives of life and death frame Hanzlová’s discourse of silence, and the passing of time. Her most recent series, Water crowns this pursuit, expanding it towards both the abstract territories of representation and the topical concern regarding the human condition. Perceived in the context of her entire oeuvre to date, Water is a climax and a symbolic closure of a journey towards the understanding of the essence of nature, human and non-human: a cloud as a part of the visible world, this ambiguous, elusive and ephemeral anti-matter, an ever-changing mirror, that reflects da Vincian “universal liaison” and “the mixture and ceaseless permutation of the elements” that – perhaps, silently, as a recapitulation – make us comprehend why this – no other – world is our habitat and stream of life.
The exhibition Jitka Hanzlová. Silences is the first substantial survey of the artist’s work in her native country and it covers over three decades of Hanzlová’s prolific career.
According to the architect of the exhibition, Pavla Melková, “the main motive of the exhibition’s architectural design is a symbolism of a journey. The visitor walks between the stations on the way – between the individual cycles of the artist’s photographs -, and thus he/she is permanently in a situation “between” – on the border between two worlds, two times, inside – outside. „Between is probably the most important word for my work“, underlines Jitka Hanzlová.
Jitka Hanzlová lives and works in Essen. In 1993 she was awarded the Dr. Otto-Steinert-Preis by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie, in 1995 she received the DG BANK Frankfurt scholarship, in 2003 the Grand Prix Arles, and in 2007 the Paris Photo Prize for Contemporary Photography. She was twice nominee for The Citibank Photography Prize in London. Hanzlová has presented her work at collective exhibitions all over the world; her noteworthy solo exhibitions include those at the Kunstverein in Frankfurt, at Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, at Fotomuseum Winterthur, at Museum Folkwang in Essen, at Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid and at the National Gallery in Edinburgh. In 2005, she was invited as a visiting professor to the Akademie der Künste in Hamburg, where she stayed until 2007. In 2012, she was invited by the ZhdK in Zürich, and lectured here until 2016.