hilma af klint

klintSoon, on february 16, opens a new exhibition at the Moderna Museet (museum for modern art) in Stockholm. It is a major exhibition of the works of Hilma af Klint, an abstract painter who was influenced by spiritism, theosophy and anthroposophy. The museum writes:

Hilma af Klint’s oeuvre builds on the awareness of a spiritual dimension of consciousness, an aspect that was being marginalised in an increasingly materialistic world. When she painted, she believed that a higher consciousness was speaking through her. In her astonishing works she combines geometric shapes and symbols with ornamentation. Her multifaceted imagery strives to give insights into the different dimensions of existence, where microcosm and macrocosm reflect one another.

I’ve seen some of her paintings before, but this will be fun. For those of you who are in Stockholm, you should definitely go. I spent some time last evening searching for articles about her. I’ll share links to a few of them, in case you want to read more.

Here’s a very interesting article in FAZ (actually worth running through google translate if you don’t read german!):

Hilma af Klint gründete 1892 mit einer Freundin aus der Kunstakademie einen Zirkel für spiritistische Zusammenkünfte. Am Beginn solcher Séancen wurde aus der Bibel vorgelesen; was dann folgte, bezeugen die Aufzeichnungen im Nachlass. Wie unter Strom füllten die zeichnenden Frauen Seiten um Seiten, zum Teil mit floralen Motiven, zum Teil auch mit blitzartigen Linien, ein Stil, den man im zwanzigsten Jahrhundert „expressionistisch“ nennen wird.

Eine Zeichnung ist aber noch kein Ölbild, abstrakte Skizzen gibt es in der Kunstgeschichte wie Sand am Meer. 1905 meldete sich jedoch eine Stimme, die folgende Nachricht an Klint hatte: „Du sollst eine neue Lebensanschauung verkünden. Deine Bemühungen werden Früchte tragen.“ Im November 1906 beginnt Klint ihre Arbeiten am „Tempel“, ein Projekt, das schließlich 193 Gemälde umfasst, die meisten davon abstrakt. Nach dem Willen von Klint hätte ein Gebäude dafür errichtet werden sollen, aber es kam nicht dazu. 1908 besuchte nämlich Rudolf Steiner ihr Atelier, der bis dahin noch der Theosophischen Gesellschaft angehörte und in Stockholm Vorträge hielt. Steiner ermahnte Klint, sie solle nicht unbewusst malen – daraufhin hörte sie erst einmal vier Jahre damit auf.

She visited the Goetheanum; Steiner never said much about her paintings, apparently, but prophesied that they would not be understood until at least fifty years had passed.

Here’s another one in the Guardian:

In many ways, even her most abstract paintings are diagrams and abstractions from ideas – not wholly abstract, more representations of elements of an unseen world, and of invisible forces. Her art also moved backwards and forwards between the apparently abstract and the embarrassingly kitsch. She was unable to paint convincing figures, astral or otherwise. Simpering nudes and crying nuns were more her line. That said, what arresting images these are. Too often for it to be an accident, Af Klint had an innate sense of how to make a painting, often with no artistic models to turn to. Her best paintings are airy, their forms and geometries delivered with an evident pleasure and openness. She had a great touch, as careless and confident as it was committed. The scale and frontality and freshness of her work still stand up, in a way that many Kandinskys don’t. Yet looking at photographic portraits of the artist, we see a stern woman who was far from cosmopolitan, and in whom there are few outward signs of emancipation. For a woman to be an artist at all in Sweden in the early 20th century was difficult enough. To be an artist who believed as she did must have made matters even more difficult.

This article is also worth mentioning, although it doesn’t add much.

(Picture borrowed from the museums website.)

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