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Anna Zemรกnkovรก TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN

CAVIN-MORRIS GALLERY


TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN

CAVIN-MORRIS GALLERY New York, NY


Anna Zemánková Twilight Before Dawn

Anna was born on August 23rd 1908, as the second of four children to the Veselý family, in the Moravian village of Staré Hodolany near Olomouc. Her mother, Adolfa ruled strictly over the family, whereas her father Antonin, a hairdresser and popular musician, brought a free bohemian spirit into the household. Both of these influences contributed to the development of Anna’s personality. She was also influenced by the social and political climate of her childhood, which was characterized by strong patriotism that became even more powerful after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the birth of an independent Czechoslovakia in 1918. The patriotic revival included the passionate preservation of traditions, processions in folk costumes, folk songs and fairy-tales, as well as classes in ornamental drawing influenced by folk art. All of this was a natural part of the life of young Anna Veselá. Anna made her first attempts to paint during her adolescence. She based her realistic landscapes on postcards and showed a great sense for color. This did not lead to her dream to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. Her parents were strictly opposed to an artistic career for their daughter and they persuaded Anna to train as a dental assistant instead. In 1931 she opened her own practice in Olomouc. From her earnings she contributed to the construction of her family house in Dorźdín, a nearby village. She gave up drawing for good at the age of twenty-five, when she married Lieutenant Bohumír Zemánek. In 1936, after the birth of her second son Slavomir, she stopped working and devoted all her time to raising her children. Her romantic vision of a happy family suffered severely when the doctors diagnosed her firstborn son with eye cancer. Anna and her husband had to face a terrifying decision: let their son, who had a few months to live, pass away quietly; or have him undergo surgery that would cause him to lose his eyesight and was unlikely to stop the tumor from growing deeper into his brain. They decided against the operation. The circumstances of his death in 1939 became a family taboo and Anna had never completely accepted the loss of her son. Her life almost returned to normal when another son—Bohumil—was born 1942. Untitled, In 19481993 Major Bohumír Zemánek was transferred to Prague and the whole family moved Mineral pigment on paper with him. A spectacular apartment with huge balcony in Prague’s prestigious and leafy 21.25 x 23 in/ 54 x 58.5 cm residential quarter, Dejvice, became Anna’s kingdom; she could finally realize her idealistic Nel TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemánková > 4


dream of a perfect household. She completely immersed herself in her children’s world. With endless imagination she devoted herself to designing, creating and modifying the interiors of the children’s rooms, making toys and inventing fairy-tales. On the other hand she required unconditional obedience and respect from her children. Motherhood for her became a higher mythical mission, into which she put all her passion and energy. In her family she succeeded in building up the perfect cult of the Great Mother. In the mid 1950’s her dream world slowly started to break down. Bohumír Zemánek, an introverted and disciplined soldier had never had much understanding for the dramatic manifestations of his romantic wife. Their conflicts slowly developed into a major crisis, further worsened by Anna’s difficult menopause. Her frustrations were intensified by the fact that her grown children were drifting apart from her. They outgrew the age when they were dependent on her unrestrained care and she could project her uncontrolled maternal passion onto them. Her son Slavomír left for Slovakia to study at a military school, and later took up medicine. Bohumil decided to study sculpturing at the Academy of Fine Arts. Anna felt that her female role – in the social as well as biological sense of the world – was weakening. The feelings of resentment and discontent grew into temperamental outbursts, unbearable for her as well as other family members. In 1960 Anna’s sons found a suitcase full of drawings from her youth in the cellar and decided to convince their mother to take up he old hobby again. At first she rejected the idea out of hand, saying: “Do you thing I can afford to draw? I do have my duties and obligations!” In the end, she started to draw flowers, which she had always loved. Even her first, mainly realistic paintings, contained some fantastic elements. These fantastical elements became dominant after she overcame her initial uncertainty in expression as well as technique. She used to draw early in the morning, when the rest of the family was still asleep and she could, almost half-asleep, let her spontaneous imagination roam free. Like a sponge, she absorbed perceptions from her environment waiting for them to trigger the creative process. This was an exciting adventure for her. “It is like when a composer hears the first tone, for example a casserole falls on the ground, he hears the sound and catches its tone, which then carries on. It is like catching a key to something and that is what I feel when I draw.” She came back to the drawings she started in the morning later in the afternoon when the children and her husband left the apartment. Sometimes she spent up to eight hours a 5 < Anna Zemánková : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


day at the drawing table. She mostly worked with music in the background. “I could not work in silence – the ideas would desert me. I have to keep them connected in one whole.” She loved Janacek, Bach, Beethoven but also Charles Lloyd. The music was not just in the background; it was also a source of inspiration for her. “Once, when I came back from a Bach concert, his great Mass, I was so excited and touched by the music, I sat down at the table and began to paint. I painted for the whole week until I finished the painting. I hung it up on the wall and thought to myself: Good God, will there be anyone able to understand what I felt, what I wanted to express…? After some time we had a visitor coming around. This man was a well-known musician. He stopped in front of that picture. And then he told me: I can feel the organ and the singing. It was one of my nicest days.” Poetry also excited her imagination. The works of Vladimír Holan and Otokar Březina appealed to her most of all, but she also admired the poetry of her son Slavomir. The impressions from her environs that she adsorbed through her oversensitive perception were transposed into her floral apparitions. Impressions people were giving when she met them, some them just for the first time, inspired her and she symbolized her feelings transforming them into their abstract internal portraits. When her creative impulse was connected to a particular person, experience of even memory, then she sometimes – but only very rarely – gave her paintings a title. That was how she created the pastel drawings entitled “The Birth of Slavomír,” “The Sad Day” (associated with the tragic death of her husband who perished in 1969 in a tram accident) but also, for example “A Film about Lenin – Naděžda Krupská.” Her first tempera paintings, created in the beginning of the 1960’s, were compositions of two or three totally incongruous vegetal motifs put in sharp contract, both in color and form, leaving the viewer with a hint of virulence and aggression. Already in this early period of her work we can trace her inspiration: the ornaments found on folk costumes, embroideries and even Art Nouveau motifs from her childhood. The stream of her kindled fantasy transmitted these initially pure decorative ornaments into dramatic scenes and expressions that – hidden into floral bodies – conceal the artist’s secret traumas. Between 1962-1963 Anna Zemánková changed the tempera technique for a much lighter

Untitled, 1993 and “airy” method – pastel painting, which would from then on be present in all her Mineral pigment on paper creations the dominant technique in the 1960s and 1970s. In that 21.25 x 23 and in/ 54would x 58.5 become cm Nel period her drawings gained more plasticity and sensuality. Her images evoke clusters of

TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemánková > 6


fruit forms penetrating and devouring one another or folding into each other – forms and images resembling wombs, bosoms, embryos or the act of conception and birth. She seems to have sublimated her female erotic energy into these extraterrestrial flowers, which as she saw it could not carry the slightest hint of anything sensual, impure or voluptuous. The fact that she had no intention to do so makes the erotic charge even stronger. It was in the 1960s that the presence of water became very important in her work. Many of her floral amphibious images appear to have originated in the depths of the ocean. Some of them are endowed with tentacles and resemble octopi, sea anemone or amoebae. Their pulpy bodies float unanchored like embryos in a mother’s womb. Her delicate penand-ink drawings, so typical for this period of her work, create – in symbiosis with the grandiose main motif – a strange suspense. “In one drawing-plan only she succeeded to symbolize the relation between the micro- and macrocosm.” Her obsession with details overruled her entirely after some time. The tiny ornaments began to occupy more and more space. Perhaps she found in the automatic repetition of the complex ornaments the peace she was longing for. In this time, when she mastered the technique of drawing so well that she reached the ability to precisely express the intended image and was able to carry it as far as the frontier of the yearned-for perfections, she created a series of minute drawings, which resemble images created by some spiritualist psychics. This similarity is slightly apparent in all phases of Zemánková’s creation. In spite of the fact, that she wasn’t inclined to the practices of spiritualism, she talked about a force that “led her,” when she – her mind in a creative trance – sat at her drawing table at dawn. In the second half of the 1960s Anna Zemánková discovered the technique of perforation, which she later used not only in her drawings, but also when making lampshades. She would become passionately engrossed in a newly discovered technique, only to abandon it as soon as she discovered another one. “I always try to think up something new, different. When I get bored of it, I’m making up something else. It drives me forward by itself.” it was these new methods and materials that became her major source of inspiration in the late 1960’s and 1970s. She drew on Formica, on which she sometimes added crocheting. She also drew on both sides of little plywood plates she found in the cellar, and made a suspension wall for her kitchen out of them. Her inventiveness did not only manifest itself in artistic expression. The desire for Beauty and Perfection also show in her perpetual redecoration of her apartment’s interior, and 7 < Anna Zemánková : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


in production of fancy decorations to make it more “beautiful.” In her home she tried to create the illusion of a luxurious fairy-tale like castle. Shiny materials, rich ornaments, light effects, and natural as well as artificial flower decorations especially fascinated her. She made richly folded satin hangings; she crocheted curtains, tablecloths, lampshades and pillow covers from artificial fabrics. Even though she did not have any technical education or training, she filled her household with sophisticated light systems and unusual makeshift appliances she invented herself (for example, she was fond of installing radios inside pillows). Her everlasting dissatisfaction caused her to constantly rearrange the furniture. At the moment when she succeeded in moving all the pieces in one room, she was enchanted by the newfound harmony. She was sure to find some imperfections the day after and would start again from the beginning. She also incorporated the materials she used to decorate her apartment, and her unusual inventions, into her artwork. The crocheted appliques and embroideries often decorated with beads, and glass diamonds appear quite frequently in her work from then on. “I thought to myself not a long time ago that I would make 200 paintings. When I was working on the eightieth, I realized that I could embroider them. So not I am using a new technique: I make sculptures, crochets and embroideries…No, I never use a ruler or measure anything…Everything must be like it is in nature. My work is a search an eternal and endless one…” “I have never thrown away any painting. Even if I didn’t like the theme, then I cut one half out and I drew the other in a different way – all of my drawings are important me.” That was how she discovered the technique of paper collages. And in using this technique, she also shaped and transformed the paper in many different ways. “I don’t like the usual drawings that much. They do not address me. That is why I have tried to give it more shape, cut it through to come closer to that reality in my creation.” From the mid 1970s she used this technique also for he satin collages. But her previously limitless imagination was becoming weaker in this period and Anna replaced it with technical invention. Creation remained, however, a vital necessity to her. “Her ambition puts enormous pressure on her originality – never repeat oneself, never repeat the same subject! And so many things, which have previously come to being spontaneously (…) were now controlled.” Untitled, 1993 In the second half of the 1970s Anna’s health rapidly deteriorated. The diabetes Mineral pigment on paper 21.25 23 in/ she 54 xhad 58.5suffered cm from xwhich for many years worsened, and her obesity as well as the Nel TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemánková > 8


bad vascular system limited her mobility even more. In 1977 her daughter became independent and consequently, Anna moved to a smaller apartment. At that time she became dependent on her children. Despite all the hardship, her obsession to create did not abandon her. On the contrary, it became a respite from her agonizing everyday life. The creative activity thus perfectly fulfilled a therapeutic function. “Creation gives me a direction. I never felt like I feel these days. I used to be aggressive and unstable. Now I am calm, composed. I never get angry anymore…I have to draw a lot!” she always used verbs expressing necessity when talking about her artwork but at this time they became even more intensive. She was worried that she might become blind. It was, however, the consequences of her diabetes that had the greatest impact. In 1982 she had to have one leg amputated, and two years after the other one as well. He last sanctuary was a retirement home in Mníśek pod Brdy, where her son Salvomir worked as a doctor. Even there she continued to create her satin collages. She died on January 15th, 1986. Within her lifetime he learned with great satisfaction that her work was accepted in the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne. Terezie Zemánková, Prague, October 2002 /The author is the granddaughter of Anna Zemánková/ This essay is excerpted from the monograph written for the abcd collection in 2003, with thanks to Terezie Zemánková.

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Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, embroidery on paper 24.61 x 17.72 inches / 62.5 x 45 cm AZe 568 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 10


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.5 x 7 inches / 21.6 x 17.8 cm NoA 98 11 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, embroidery on paper 24.61 x 17.72 inches / 62.5 x 45 cm AZe 569 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 12


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 9.5 x 8.5 inches / 24.1 x 21.6 cm NoA 100


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, ball point pen, embroidery on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm inner dimension: 62.5 x 45 cm AZe 570

TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 14


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.5 x 8.25 inches / 29.2 x 21 cm NoA 102 15 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Crayon, ball point pen, acrylic, paper collage, and fabric on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm inner dimensions: 64 x 48 cm AZe 571

TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 16


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.75 inches / 21 x 29.8 cm NoA 104 17 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, embroidery on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm AZe 572

TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 18


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.25 inches / 29.8 x 21 cm NoA 106 19 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Embroidery, crochet, and ball point pen on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm AZe 573 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 20


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.25 inches / 29.8 x 21 cm NoA 109 21 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, ball point pen, embroidery, crochet on paper 24.61 x 17.72 in / 62.5 x 45 cm AZe 574 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 22


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.5 inches / 21 x 29.2 cm NoA 111 23 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, ball point pen, embroidery on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm AZe 575 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 24


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.5 x 8.5 inches / 29.2 x 21.6 cm NoA 113 25 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Embroidery and beads on paper 24.61 x 17.72 in / 62.5 x 45 cm AZe 576

TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 26


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.25 inches / 29.8 x 21 cm NoA 114 27 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, ball point pen, beads, on paper 89 x 62.5 in / 226.1 x 158.8 cm AZe 577 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 28


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 12.25 x 8.5 inches / 31.1 x 21.6 cm NoA 116 29 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, embroidery on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm AZe 578 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 30


31 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, embroidery on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm AZe 579

TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 32


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.75 inches / 21 x 29.8 cm NoA 120 33 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, ball-point pen, embroidery on paper 24.61 x 17.72 in / 62.5 x 45 cm AZe 580 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 34


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.5 inches / 29.8 x 21.6 cm NoA 122 35 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, embroidery on paper 33.86 x 24.61 in / 86 x 62.5 cm AZe 581

TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 36


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.3 x 11.6 inches / 21.1 x 29.5 cm NoA 124 37 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Acrylic, beads, embroidery on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm AZe 582

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39 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Acrylic, paper collage and embroidery on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm AZe 583 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 40


41 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, ball point pen, embroidery on paper 24.61 x 17.72 in / 62.5 x 45 cm AZe 584 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 42


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Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Untitled, Pastel,1993 ink, embroidery on paper Mineral pigment 24.61 x 17.72oninpaper / 62.5 x 45 cm 21.25 x 23 in/ 54 x 58.5 cm AZe 585 Nel TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 44


45 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Acrylic, paper collage, fabric on paper Untitled, 1993 35.04 24.61oninpaper / 89 x 62.5 cm Mineral xpigment innerxdimensions: 21.25 23 in/ 54 x 58.564 cmx 47 cm Nel AZe 586 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 46


47 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, ball point pen, embroidery on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm AZe 587 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 48


49 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, ball-point pen, embroidery, crochet on paper 35.04 x 24.61 in / 89 x 62.5 cm AZe 588 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 50


51 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, 1970s Pastel, ball point pen and Untitled, 1993 embroidery on paper Mineral pigment on paper 24.61 / 62.5 21.25 xx2317.72 in/ 54in x 58.5 cm x 45 cm AZe 589 Nel TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 52


53 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Untitled, 1993 Mineral pigment on paper 21.25 x 23 in/ 54 x 58.5 cm Nel TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 54


55 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemánková Untitled, c. 1970’s Untitled, 1993 Oil pastel and ink on paper Mineral pigment on paper 4 x 6 xinches / 10.2 15.2 cm 21.25 23 in/ 54 x 58.5xcm Nel AZe 611 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemánková > 56


Anna Zemánková Untitled, c. 1970’s Cut paper, oil pastel and ink on paper 4.25 x 6 in / 10.8 x 15.2 cm AZe 613 57 < Anna Zemánková : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemánková Untitled, c. 1970’s Untitled, 1993and ink on paper Oil pastel Mineral pigment on paper 4.25 x 6 in / 10.8 x 15.2 cm 21.25 x 23 in/ 54 x 58.5 cm AZe Nel 608 TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemánková > 58


Anna Zemánková Untitled, c. 1970’s Oil pastel and ink on paper 4 x 5.75 in / 10.2 x 14.6 cm AZe 609 59 < Anna Zemánková : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemánková Untitled, c. 1970’s Untitled, 1993 Cut satin and ink on paper Mineral pigment on paper 16.5 inx/58.5 41.9cmx 29.8 cm 21.25 xx 11.75 23 in/ 54 AZe 600 Nel TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemánková > 60


Anna Zemánková Untitled, c. 1970’s Cut satin and ink on paper 16.5 x 11.75 in / 41.9 x 29.8 cm AZe 599 61 < Anna Zemánková : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Anna Zemánková Untitled, c. 1970’s Untitled, 1993 Cut satin and ink on paper Mineral pigment on paper 16.5 x 29.2 cm 21.25 xx 11.5 23 in/ in 54/x41.9 58.5 cm AZe 597 Nel TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemánková > 62


Anna Zemรกnkovรก Untitled, c. 1970 Pastel, ink and satin on paper 17.75 x 12.25 in / 45.1 x 31.1 cm AZe 229 63 < Anna Zemรกnkovรก : TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN


Copyright Š 2015 CAVIN-MORRIS GALLERY Cavin-Morris Gallery 210 Eleventh Ave, Ste. 201 New York, NY 10001 t. 212 226 3768 www.cavinmorris.com Catalogue design: Sam Richardson & Marissa Levien


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Untitled, 1993 Mineral pigment on paper 21.25 x 23 in/ 54 x 58.5 cm Nel TWILIGHT BEFORE DAWN : Anna Zemรกnkovรก > 66


Twilight Before Dawn catalog