12. 9. — 2. 11. 2014
This retrospective comprises fifty years of work by Markéta Luskačová (b. 1944), an icon of Czech photography, whose importance has for many years extended well beyond the boundaries of her native land. Her photographs have more than just a documentary value; they also contain striking ethical messages. In her work, she has devoted herself to documenting religious pilgrimages in the countryside, life at street markets in London, and endangered minorities in Great Britain. As part of her more recent photographic projects from the Czech milieu, Markéta Luskačová has documented country carnivals, mainly in Roztoky near Prague.
The Café at Bethnal green, Spitalfield, London, 1976
Carnival held by the Roztoč group, Roztoky, CZ, 2000
From Ireland, 1973
Photographs from the opening of the exhibition
In 1983, when the Victoria & Albert Museum curated Pilgrims, Markéta Luskačová’s first major exhibition in Britain, Sir Roy Strong wrote in a foreword to the exhibition catalogue: ‘In a way that is sometimes uncanny, photographers record details of experiences deep within themselves that actually occur before their camera, and are received at a profound level by an audience which saw nothing of the events but recognises the experience.’ Markéta Luskačová’s photographs could be also called those of a pilgrim. Those who view her images may not be familiar with the places and people they depict and yet will experience an unexpected intimacy with these scenes. Before her work, we all stand as what Joseph Conrad called ‘secret sharers’.
The internationally active Czech artist has great seriousness of purpose. She is engaged with the world, not as a shapeless void but as a habitable landscape, a community of kinships, relationships and personal ties. In beautifully composed, grainy images her Leica camera captures the deep faith that upholds people, their part in the enactment of a common day, a spontaneous renewal of traditions, the taste of joy in loneliness, their capacity for standing out as unique in a crowd. The photographs of Markéta Luskačová capture not just the half-hidden life stories, but the fragile immortality of the moment – infectious enthusiasm of children, solidarity of the homeless, inventiveness of street musicians, the mysteriousness of carnivals… All these are images of life lived intensely which Markéta Luskačová’s empathetic eye frames with supreme acuity.
Italo Calvino’s observes in the novel Mr Palomar (1983): ‘Having the outside look outside is not enough: the trajectory must start from the looked-at thing, linking it with the thing that looks’. As this exhibition reveals, Markéta Luskačová’s life-long work has always followed this dual trajectory.
Irena Žantovská Murray, Curator
Quotation from the text must be followed by “Text: Irena Žantovská Murray”, or “© Irena Žantovská Murray”.
A catalogue has been published to accompany the exhibition. More information here.