In 1982 Jitka Hanzlová defected from the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and settled in Essen in West Germany. Since then she has sought to explore her experiences through photography, producing a body of work at once poetic and truthful. Hanzlová’s photography is in constant pursuit of the relationship between the individual and the context in which he or she lives. It scrutinizes the ways in which home and surroundings indelibly shape identity. Drawing on her own life story, Hanzlová’s photographs also speak to a more universal longing for a sense of place.
The photographer develops her work in series, beginning with Rokytník made between 1990 and 1994, the village in Eastern Bohemia which she left a decade earlier. Of central significance to Hanzlová, Rokytník is the creative bedrock for everything that follows. Taken together, her photography constitutes an imaginative investigation of ‘belonging’, whether a commentary on the alienation of city life or the photographer’s deep identification with the mysterious northern forests. This is essentially a form of extended portraiture and Hanzlová has most recently turned to portrait photography itself, in particular exploring the potential of Renaissance archetypes.
This is the first major retrospective of Hanzlová’s photography over the last two decades. Emerging from her experience of two different cultures and political systems, her work is a profound meditation on European identity in a post-Cold War world.
The exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid.
Image: Untitled, from the series There Is Something I Don't Know, 2000-2012. © Jitka Hanzlová