It was in the early 60s that this humble Moravian began to produce work for which her condition had not prepared her, responding strikingly to injunctions from the depths. Thus, at a time when the demons of the night were still vying for the seminal iridescence of dawn, she would pick strange flowers in her mind, to make them protrude from the paper. “I grow flowers that don’t grow anywhere else”, she used to say. Anna Zemánková is already an established figure in the art brut, having been honored in 2013 at the 55th Venice Biennale, before a significant body of her work joined the collections of the Centre Pompidou, and the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 2020. In 2024, his works will be presented for the second time at the Venice Binnale, curated by Adriano Pedrosa.
Born in 1908 in Olomouc, Moravia, Anna showed a keen interest in drawing from an early age, but her father did not understand her: she became a dental assistant.
In 1933, she married an officer, stopped working and devoted herself fully to her home. The couple had three sons (the first of whom died at the age of 4) and, later, a daughter. Her role as a loving mother kept her fully occupied. After the Second World War, the family moved to Prague, then, in 1950, Anna fell into depression and, because of her diabetes, had both her legs amputated.
At over 50 - perhaps reconnecting with her childhood dream - Anna began to produce spontaneous plant-inspired drawings daily, between 4 and 7 a.m., when she felt she was capturing magnetic forces. At the beginning of the work, she is unaware of its final form: “Everything works by itself”, “[…] no need to think”.
This rootless, humus-less vegetation, these sometimes mental, sometimes organic blooms, from what herbarium of the abyss do they emerge? Which kingdom do they belong to, which classification do they belong to? And, as in the work of Séraphine de Senlis, are they still flowers? Aren’t they already fruit? Fleshy, filled with heady juices: gorged with the drive of a woman who simply says “I live”.
These strikingly detailed works, driven by a singular rhythm of spirals, arabesques and geometric shapes, have made Anna a major figure in the art brut movement. Her work is represented in the most prestigious collections, culminating in the international pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
Texts : Terezie Zemánková and Manuel Anceau
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Anna Zemánková : hortus deliciarum #2, from June, 17 to July 18, 2021.