MUNICH.- The work of German artist Johanna Diehl (born Hamburg 1977) focuses on architectural spaces of historical significance. Her series of photographs document locations, buildings and interiors in which the history of the 20th century reveals itself. In her images of the surfaces and architectures of past cultures and powers, the artist draws our attention to the traces of history, to decay, preservation and re-shaping.
In her Ukraine Series of 2013, Johanna Diehl documents the visual appearance of what were once synagogues in the Ukraine. Victims of the antireligious political doctrine of the Soviet Union, they were stripped of their original purpose in the years between the two World Wars and some were turned into municipal centres, such as cinemas, sports halls and clubs roles which they often still fulfil today. Religious life moved from the synagogue to the private realm. In the years between 1941 and 1944, Jewish communities and their culture were almost totally destroyed in the Holocaust by the German occupying powers.
Johanna Diehl searches out the hidden layers of history in these alienated places. Her precise images are made with a large-format, analogue camera, and her wide perspectives draw attention to the shapes and proportions of the interiors, in which the original religious purpose is often strikingly revealed. The artists quiet photographs, devoid of human presence, probe the brutal persecutions and upheavals of the 20th century which left their mark on these buildings. Architecture, in these photographs, becomes a silent witness; its odd surviving decorative features, cracks and discontinuities reveal the history it has seen, as do its new surfaces and modern furnishings.
Johanna Diehl studied in Leipzig under Timm Rautert, where she was also a master-class pupil of Tina Bara. She studied abroad with Jean-Marc Bustamante and Christian Boltanski in Paris and with Boris Mikhailov in the Ukraine. She has already received several grants and awards, the most recent being a scholarship for 2016 from the Deutsche Akademie Casa Baldi in Rome. Her book of photographs, Borgo Romanità Alleanza , addressing the architectural legacy of fascist Italy and published in 2014 by Hatje Cantz, was awarded the 2015 Deutscher Photobuchpreis silver medal. The artist lives and works in Berlin.
In the studio exhibition a selection from the Ukraine Series is now on display for the first time. At the same time an artists book is being published by Sieveking Verlag, in which the photographs of the series are accompanied by literary texts by the Ukrainian writer Yurii Andrukhovych and an essay by Bernhard Maaz.