ARTIST FOCUSANNA ZEMÁNKOVÁ
(1908-1986 MORAVIA)

DIGITAL EXHIBITION ARTIST FOCUS
BIOGRAPHY EXHIBITIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHY  

HER DRAWINGS HAVE THE DEPTH AND COMPLEXITY OF STRANGE BIOLOGICAL SPECIMENS, FOR SHE WAS DRAWING A WONDERFUL HERBARIUM OF THE IMAGINATION.MASSIMILIANO GIONI, VENICE BIENNALE 2013

 

Biography
ANNA ZEMÁNKOVÁ
WAS NOT AN ACTRESS LIKE HER COUSIN, NOR AN OPERA SINGER LIKE HER GRAND-DAUGHTER, NOR A SCULPTOR LIKE HER SON. SHE WAS A HUMBLE HOUSEWIFE WITH A PRIVATE MID-LIFE HOBBY. BORN IN MORAVIA IN 1908, ZEMÁNKOVÁ HAD DRAWN AS A GIRL. YET WHAT BEGAN AS A HESITANT REVIVAL OF CREATIVITY, EVENTUALLY BECAME AN ESSENTIAL MEANS TO CHANNEL THE BREADTH, COMPLEXITY AND CONFLICT OF DAILY LIVING. IF ZEMÁNKOVÁ CALLED HER CREATIONS FLOWERS, WHAT THEY CONTAINED WAS MORE COMPLEX THAN THIS SHORTHAND IMPLIED, THEIR BEAUTY BOTH REPELLING AND SEDUCING WITH A POETIC, AUTOMATIC FINALITY.

 

THROUGHOUT THE 1960S AND 1970S ZEMÁNKOVÁ'S PRACTICE GREW. EVERY DAY BEFORE DAWN, INSPIRED BY JANÁČEK AND BEETHOVEN, SHE CHANNELLED HER ENERGIES INTO A NEAR-DEVOTIONAL CUSTOM, FEARING BLACK, FAVOURING YELLOW, SHE DREW, SHADED AND STITCHED HER BOTANY INTO BEING.

LOCAL EXHIBITIONS INTRODUCED HER TO THE CZECH CREATIVE COMMUNITY. ARTIST JIŘÍ ANDERLE , FILMMAKER JAN ŠVANKMAJER AND PLAYWRIGHT VÁCLAV HAVEL BECAME COLLECTORS. THE MEDIUMISTIC OVERTONES ATTRACTED ARTIST ARNULF RAINER AND THE COLLECTION DE L’ART BRUT IN LAUSANNE. YET FOR MOST OUTSIDE THE EASTERN BLOC, ZEMÁNKOVÁ REMAINED UNKNOWN AND UNSEEN, ACQUIRED ONLY BY THE SELECT FEW.

EVERYTHING CHANGED IN 2011 WHEN CURATOR MASSIMILIANO GIONI FEATURED ZEMÁNKOVÁ IN OSTALGIA AT THE NEW MUSEUM IN NEW YORK. IN 2013 HE INSTALLED OVER A DOZEN WORKS ON PAPER IN THEIR OWN GALLERY AS PART OF THE ENCYCLOPAEDIC PALACE AT THE 55TH VENICE BIENNALE, FINAL PROOF OF HIS BELIEF IN ZEMÁNKOVÁ AS AN IMPORTANT HISTORIC ARTIST.

IT IS NO COINCIDENCE THAT ANNA ZEMÁNKOVÁ REMINDS US OF THE PIONEERS OF 20TH CENTURY WOMEN’S ART. THE GHOSTS LOOM LARGE, BE THEY GEORGIA O’KEEFE AND LOUISE BOURGEOIS, OR DOROTHEA TANNING AND UNICA ZÜRN. SUCH COMPARISONS REMIND US THAT THIS GIFTED MAKER, BORN IN ANOTHER TIME AND PLACE, REMAINED SECRET WHILE HER PEERS DID NOT, HER INVISIBILITY A SHIELD WHICH ENABLED AN URGENT AND EXPANSIVE PRACTICE TO FLOURISH, UNINTERRUPTED BY THE DEMANDS OF ART.

TODAY, CRITICS DESCRIBE ZEMÁNKOVÁ‘S WORK AS AN ILLUSTRATED INNER LIFE, REPLETE WITH PSYCHIC SYMBOLS AND EROTIC METAPHORS. YET FOR THE ARTIST HERSELF, THE TRUTH WAS AS SIMPLE AS IT WAS PROFOUND:

I SEE SOMETHING, A SORT OF DEEP FEELING INSIDE, IT STAYS WITH ME AND LATER, I PUT IT ONTO PAPER.Anna Zemánková, ARTIST