Czech artist Jitka Hanzlová uses photography to address the ways in which one’s homeland and surrounding environment shape identity. Having experienced the trauma of fleeing her native home of Czechoslovakia in 1982, Hanzlová has created an oeuvre that engages with notions of belonging and alienation, utilizing surprisingly varied subject matter.
In the series, Forest (2000-2005), Hanzlová photographed the forest near her childhood village, transforming the empty, wooded landscape into a symbol of memory and loss. Her strong sense of history is an important element of her work, as seen in the later series There is something I don’t know (2011). Here, the artist explores Renaissance portraiture, using men and women of all ages, dressed in contemporary clothes, and presented in an archetypal pose against a simple background. Portrayed in this way, the portraits have a timeless quality that imbues much of Hanzlová’s work. In an equally historicizing gesture, for the more recent series, Horse (2007-2014), the artist reflects on the ancient relationship between man and horse. As with Forest, Hanzlová approaches the subject through close-up photographs of specific details – mouth, ear, and mane – communicating her intense, emotional connection to the animal.
Born in Czechoslovakia in 1958, Jitka Hanzolvá has lived in Germany since 1982. She is the winner of the 2007 BMW Prize at Paris Photo, the 2003 Grand Prix Award, Arles, and was shortlisted for the 1999 and 2002 Citibank Photography Prize. Monographs her work include Bewohner (1996); Rokytnik (1997); FEMALE (2000); Forest (2005); COTTONROSE (2009); HIER (2013); and HORSE (2015), among others.
Hanzlová’s work has been exhibited in numerous major institutions including Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; National Gallery, Edinburgh; Mapfre Foundation, Madrid; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Barbican Centre, London; The Photographer’s Gallery, London; and Seattle Art Museum. Her work is held in the permanent collections of several major museums, including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Museum Folkwang, Essen; and the Fotomuseum Winterthur, among many others.