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The Collection de l'Art Brut opens major retrospective of works by the Czech creator Anna Zemánková
Untitled, btw. 1960 and 1979. Colored pencil, ink, ballpoint pen and embossing on drawing paper, 20,5 x 30,2 cm. Photo: Arnaud Conne, (AN). Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne.

LAUSANNE.- The Collection de l’Art Brut proudly presents a major retrospective of works by the Czech creator Anna Zemánková (1908 – 1986). The event has been set up in close conjunction with this creator's family who, for many years now, has sought to promote Zemánková's oeuvre. To that end, the Collection de l'Art Brut has assembled a large selection of nearly 130 drawings from both its own holdings and the family's private collection: many of these are being shown for the first time. Works from a private Czech collection also are on display, together with archival documents, a to-date unreleased film on Anna Zemánková and a major monograph.

Anna Zemánková was born in Olomouc (Moravia) in 1908: at a very young age she was already attracted to drawing, but found no encouragement for that love within her family circle. Wedded in 1933, she and her husband settled in Prague. Here Anna became active as a dental technician, but she gave up that profession upon the birth of a second son. In the wake of a succession of painful events in her life—the death of one of her sons and several bouts of depression—she reached a breaking point. It was in the early 1960s, at the age of over fifty, that she suddenly took up drawing. She first worked in pastels on large sheets of paper; over the following years, she gradually developed an innovative technique blending pencil, ink, pastels, perforation, collage, cut-outs, embossing and even embroidery.

In a nigh-to-mediumistic and deeply concentrated fashion, Anna would begin drawing at about 4 am. The dawn hours seemed to incite her to attain a state of ecstasy conducive to capturing the magnetic forces emanated by a parallel world. This in turn induced her to come up with a phantasmagoric herbarium of flowers and plants, all radiating in a blaze of colors. She was also wont to work on the materials themselves, perforating and shaping the support. Increasingly afflicted by diabetes over the years, she was gradually forced to limit her activities and movements. This obligation led her to reduce the size of her works all the way down to miniatures in which, nonetheless, her flowers continued to bloom altogether vividly. Encouraged to do so by her sons, Anna devoted herself to her artistic creation for twenty-five years, resulting in the production of several thousand works.

Anna Zemánková was born in Olomouc, Moravia. After leaving school she worked as a dental technician before getting married and having two children. In 1948 she moved with her family to Prague but later, aged 52, sank into a state of depression.

That was when she started to produce her first paintings. These permitted her access to a parallel world that, according to her, was more rewarding than the real world. She had the feeling of harnessing magnetic forces that usually elude representation. This belief made her somewhat similar to spiritualist creators.

The motifs of her compositions emerged during the course of execution. Apart from pastels and penand-ink drawings, she resorted to original techniques: perforation of the support material and embossing, in other words, pressed relief patterns produced on hand-made rag paper. Later she would also paint on silk or satin.

Exhibition Curator: Pascale Jeanneret, Curator with the Collection de l’Art Brut, and Terezie Zemánková, art critic and freelance exhibition curator

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