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Portrait Gallery Premières Major Show by Czech Photographer Jitka Hanzlová

A major retrospective exhibition of work by Czech photographer, Jitka Hanzlová, will have its only UK showing in The Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery this autumn. The exhibition - on show from 17 October 2012 to 3 February 2013 - brings together around 100 works spanning her career from the early 1990s to the present day.

National Galleries of Scotland Press Release


17 October 2012 - 3 February 2013
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
Telephone: 0131 624 6200 | Admission free

A major retrospective exhibition of work by Czech-born photographer, Jitka Hanzlová, will have its only UK showing in The Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery this autumn. Hanzlová is one of the most significant contemporary photographers in Europe today, producing a body of work that offers a profound investigation of identity in a post-Cold War world. The exhibition brings together around 100 works spanning her career from the early 1990s to the present day. It is curated by Isabel Tejeda and comes straight to Edinburgh after its showing at FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE in Madrid.

In 1982 Jitka Hanzlová defected from the communist regime in Czechoslovakia and settled in Essen in West Germany, expecting never to see her home again. However, with the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989 she was able to return, inspiring a body of work based on her experiences of two different cultures and political systems. Drawing on her own life story, Hanzlová’s photography subtly explores the ways in which home and surroundings indelibly shape identity. It constitutes an imaginative investigation of ‘belonging’ at the turn of the twentieth century.

Dr Duncan Forbes, Senior Curator of Photography, said:

“We’re thrilled to be staging this major retrospective in Edinburgh, the first time Jitka Hanzlová has exhibited in Scotland. She is one of the most creative photographers working in Europe today. We feel that her penetrating observations of everyday life, not least in the countryside and de-industrialising cities of northern Europe, will have all kinds of echoes for Scottish audiences.”

Hanzlová organises her work in series, beginning with Rokytník, the village in Eastern Bohemia she left in the early 1980s. Of central significance to the photographer, Rokytník is the creative bedrock for everything that follows. Further series examine Hanzlová’s response to everyday life in some of western Europe’s major cities, most notably Essen where she has lived and worked since the 1980s. Urban life for the photographer is often presented as alienating and in a state of constant flux. Her work reveals, for example, the way post-industrial landscapes are slowly reclaimed by nature. In a further major series, Forest, Hanzlová returns to the haunts of her youth, producing a visionary experience through photography of the Czech Republic’s mysterious northern forests. Another original body of work, titled Horses, provides perhaps one of the most powerful renditions of the animal ever seen in the history of photography. Hanzlová’s work is essentially a form of extended portraiture and in a series exhibited for the first time she turns to portrait photography itself, often exploring and echoing Renaissance classics.

Jitka Hanzlová, to be shown in the Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery, follows on from Romantic Camera and Legacy, ending a strong year of photography exhibitions in the newly refurbished Scottish National Portrait Gallery. It pursues questions of place and identity central to the remit of the Gallery, opening them up into an international context.

The Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery, named after the renowned American photographer, is supported by a very generous donation from the The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. This is being used over three years to realise innovative displays, exhibitions and research. The Gallery is the first purpose-built photography space of its kind in a major museum in Scotland.

Published: Tuesday, October 09, 2012

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