Friday, 22nd March, 2013
By Craig Brealey
When Broken Hill photographer Boris Hlavica returned to his European home to hold an exhibition of his work two years ago, he found that his name preceded him - by about 80 years.
In the Czech Republic where Boris was born the name Hlavica has an artistic pedigree that was well known to a young visitor to his show who then set about arranging for him to return for another exhibition.
The fellow that Boris had met at his show in Prague was the curator of a newly established art museum in the town of Blansko, and that is where Boris' next exhibition will open this weekend.
It will be held at a restored chateau called the Muzeum Blansko, near the city of Brno which is famous as the place where Brno rifles were made.
Blansko once had a foundry that made cast iron and bronze art deco architectural features and statues.
"When my father left art school in the 1930s, his first job was as a designer and model maker there," said Boris.
"The young curator was very interested in the history of the foundry and he came across his story."
Boris' father, Rudolph, had two brothers who were also artists - both painters - and the curator knew of them too.
"He had held an exhibition of my father's sculptures and my uncles' paintings and then came across my name.... It is like the saga of the Hlavicas!"
That exhibition was called 'The Art of the Brothers Hlavica' and the most famous of them was uncle Frantisek, said Boris.
"He liked to paint working people - villagers, peasants, factory workers - but he made his money by doing portraits of rich people." Among his
patrons were the royal family of Spain.
Frantisek did well enough to build himself a ski lodge where he entertained his friends in style but that all came to an end when the Communists took over the country.
They confiscated the lodge and turned it into a holiday camp. In 1950, when Boris was 18, he emigrated to Australia with his brother and sister and found work as a photographer with the Department of Works in Melbourne.
He also gained a degree in photography and opened an advertising studio.
Ten years ago, after a lot of time spent exploring the outback, he and wife Jana, a fellow artist, moved to Broken Hill and opened a gallery in Sulphide Street to display their work, although Boris still returns to Melbourne for advertising assignments.
Boris' new exhibition in the Czech Republic is called "Australia In My Eyes" and it is a collection of photographs of "the places I like - the desert and the arid country - the places I like to go camping.
"There is nothing deep and meaningful, unlike my exhibition in Prague which was about my home there and my home here.
"This is all pretty pictures. People like to see pretty pictures."