Jan Saudek

Born in 1935 in Prague (CZ)
Lives and works in Prague (CZ)

Sans titre

Colour photograph, gelatin-silver print
23 x 22,5 cm
Year of Purchase: 1987

For a long time Jan Saudek’s pictures failed to find favour with the powers-that-be in the Czech Republic. He was persecuted, and, accordingly, his dogged pursuit of photography led him to construct a unique vocabulary, at once a private diary and a grand initiatory narrative. Jan Saudek was for many years obliged to produce his pictures in a tiny studio which was a cross between a crypt and a nook. In it, facing a wall with a leprous, flaking look about it, he had fun fantasizing about the ‘theatre of his life’, a theatre made up of a removed eroticism, a recollection of the great works of art history, and above all a continual fear of disappearance and death. La Cible (Mort d’un soldat)The Target (Death of a Soldier) – belongs to this kind of work consisting of sequences of more or less narrative imagery. Here the most absolute spareness and the fearsome conclusion of death clearly refer to the upheavals of the history of his country as well as to the impossibility for photography to record anything other than signs and vague appearances, as illustrated by the last image in the series. This figure being slowly led towards death is already no more than a shadow. The other more sophisticated images all originate from the representation of woman, at once an object of desire and a symbolic figure alternately playing different roles in a set marked by a painstakingly measured Baroque aesthetic.

Damien Sausset