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Fotohof opens exhibition of works by Laurenz Berges, Bernhard Fuchs, and Jitka Hanzlová
Bernhard Fuchs, Obstbäume, Laimbach, 2010, C-Print, 23,5x21cm.

SALZBURG.- Artists Laurenz Berges, Jitka Hanzlová and Bernhard Fuchs have been friends since their student days in Essen and/or Düsseldorf; since then they have continually explored matters of documentary style in their respective oeuvres. What their works have in common is a contemplative conception of the image and an unwavering focus on valid images of places and people. Their groups of works have evolved over long periods of time. They always reference images of everyday constellations in which the depicted appears as universally valid. Adopting the classic reality strategies of photography as an analogue medium, they have created image cycles that have entered the public perception both as wall-mounted photographs and in book form.

From 1991 to 1995 Laurenz Berges photographed deserted (living) quarters in Brandenburg, barracks abandoned by the former Red Army after its withdrawal following Germany’s reunification. Proceeding through these empty spaces with almost forensic meticulousness, he has created not only documents of historical validity, but also images of a tremendous associative power through his emotional engagement with the topic.

Memories, the autobiographical, and the question of identity all play key roles in Jitka Hanzlová’s oeuvre. The Ruhr district has been her country of adoption for the past thirty years, and it is here that the group of works entitled HIER was created: chance encounters between people and nature in an urban environment moulded by industry – yet rather than meshing together like cogs and wheels, their relationship with one another remains open.

Returning to the places of one’s childhood is a recurring theme for Bernhard Fuchs. His Höfe [Courtyards] series features photographs of small farmsteads from his native Mühlviertel, a region of Upper Austria. His documentary style features the courtyards in a cultural landscape shaped by the changing seasons in which the footprint of human life is visible – even though not a single person is depicted.

Laurenz Berges
The empty bar­racks rooms in East Germany become his­to­ri­cal dwel­lings in Laurenz Berges› pic­tures, »Places of Remembering« (Virginia Heckert). But the tra­ces of history are not only pre­ser­ved by pho­to­gra­phy, by dou­bling. They have been for­med into real images. The most import­ant fac­tor in their for­ma­tion — and to a cer­tain extent also in »actual« history — is day­light . The view of the sink and, above it, the trace of a mir­ror that had once been moun­ted there have been for­med in mani­fold ways by light, which falls in through the unvi­si­ble win­dow thro­wing a weak shadow of an almost imper­cep­ti­ble cross-bar upon the small white porce­lain sink and absent mir­ror. The day­light has taken the place of the mir­ror as gate­way to a dif­fe­rent, per­haps bet­ter world. As a natu­ral, living force in the crea­tion of form, it over­co­mes, pus­hes aside and superse­des the Vanitas motif in a his­to­ri­cal pro­cess of making an image. It allows past events to become acces­si­ble again. The sto­ries of the people in the bar­racks at Karlshorst, Schönwalde, Potsdam, Wünsdorf and other pla­ces are made acces­si­ble by Laurenz Berges› pic­tures and thus tend to get a reprieve from for­get­ful­ness. In his renun­cia­tion of heigh­te­ned per­spec­tive, of hasty pla­c­ing of mea­nings, by trus­ting to the bur­geo­n­ing of an image by care­fully model­led day­light, a cycle has come about of »almost epic great­ness« (Virginia Heckert). (Text excerpt : Ulrich Bischoff)

Bernhard Fuchs
Time and again on walks in the area around Helfenberg I have been confronted with the continuous changes happening to the small farms there. Remotely located in the hilly landscape of the Mühlviertel, these are mainly mixed-farming operations, something that is reflected in the architecture of the buildings and the forms of the adjacent plots. The climate is bleak, the soils rather meagre. Arable fields, woodland and grassland for the grazing of livestock, mostly dairy cows, are characteristic of the area. Most of the farms are run as secondary sources of income and are passed down from generation to generation. However, structural changes have also taken their toll here: new laws require that stalls and keeping conditions be reorganised, the cost of necessary investment is rising and farmers often struggle to find successors to take over their farms. As such, many of these small farms have been abandoned in recent times. (Text: Bernhard Fuchs)

Jitka Hanzlová
Czech-born artist Jitka Hanzlová fled to West Germany in 1982 and has lived in Essen ever since. For her series of works entitled HIER [Here] completed in 2010 she has chosen her country of adoption as her theme. The cornerstone for the series was laid back in 1998 when Hanzlová first began to explore in-depth the re-cultivated and restored landscapes of areas in the Ruhr district previously devastated by mining and industry. It was only in 2006, after completing other extensive series, that she resumed her work on HIER and completed the cycle featuring portraits of gnarled locals as well as still-lifes and photographs of architectural details which, for the first time in her work, seemed to be inching towards abstract imagery. But perhaps the most striking element is the particular aloofness which Hanzlová manages to maintain with her environment and her models. Strange for the reason that it is not the cool distance of a researcher’s gaze that we see expressed here, but a restrained endeavour to restore something whole. Where Gursky synthesises artificial worlds, Hanzlová attempts something of a psycho-social synthesis of people and their environment.(Text excerpt: Eric Aichinger)

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