November 6, 2017

Artist Admiration: Hilma af Klint

Painting the unseen...

The pioneer of abstraction

"Visionary painting"

"Energy is eternal delight." -William Blake

"Hilma af Klint assumed that there was a spiritual dimension to life and aimed at visualizing contexts beyond what the eye can see. When painting, she believed that she was in contact with a higher consciousness that spoke and conveyed messages through her. Like many of her contemporaries, she was influenced by spiritual movements, especially spiritualism, theosophy and later anthroposophy. Through her paintings, she sought to understand and communicate the various dimensions of human existence."

 The Dove, Noi by Hilma af Klint. Photograph: Albin Dahlström/Courtesy of Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

Hilma af Klint, Untitled #1, 1915, oil and gold on canvas (private collection)
Hilma af Klint, De tio största, nr 3, Ynglingaåldern, grupp IV, 1907 © Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

Hilma af Klint
De stora figurmålningarna, nr 5, Nyckeln till hittills-varande arbete, grupp III, serie WU/Rosen, 1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk/Foto: Moderna Museet, Albin Dahlström

Hilma af Klint, The Swan, No. 1, Group IX/SUW, 1915 Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

"Between 1906 and 1915, Hilma af Klint created her central oeuvre, her Paintings for the Temple. It comprises of 193 paintings in various series and groups. The overall idea is to convey the knowledge of how all is one, beyond the visible dualistic world. The temple to which the title refers does not necessarily relate to an actual building but can rather be seen as a metaphor for spiritual evolution.

Hilma af Klint described her process: “The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.”

Hilma af Klint, Hilma af Klint From A Work on Flowers, Mosses and Lichen, July 2 1919 © Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk/Photo: Moderna Museet, Albin Dahlström
"Hilma af Klint’s imagery is full of symbols, letters and words. Symbols are like doors into another dimension. For Hilma af Klint, her entire work was about conveying the messages she received, and to shed light on the great existential issues.

It would be pointless to translate the symbols and letters in Hilma af Klint’s works into definite, unambiguous terms. They must always be seen in relation to the entire context. In her notebook Symboler, Bokstäver och Ord tillhörande Hilma af Klints målningar [Notes on Letters and Words pertaining to Works by Hilma af Klint] she attempts to clarify the complex meanings of the various signs. Here are a few general explanations:

The snail or spiral represents development or evolution. The eyelet and the hook, blueand yellow, and the lily and the rose represent femininity and masculinity respectively. Wstands for matter, while U stands for spirit. The almond shape arising when two circles overlap is called the vesica piscis and is an ancient symbol for the development towards unity and completion. The swan represents the ethereal in many mythologies and religions and stands for completion in the alchemical tradition. In Christianity, the doverepresents the holy spirit and love.

Esoteric and occult denote “the science of the hidden dimensions”. Western esotericism is a mixture of Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, Jewish kabbalah and the three occult “sciences” of astrology, magic and alchemy.

Spiritualism shares the conviction that it is possible to make contact with the spirits of the deceased. Modern spiritism was spread thanks to the Fox sisters in the USA in 1848.

Theosophy is a general doctrine incorporating inspiration from various religions and spiritism. The religions are regarded as different expressions of one fundamental truth. Theosophy teaches that the origin of everything, divinity, is inherent in every being. The Theosophical Society was founded in New York in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky and others. There is also an older form of theosophy that is significantly different to the newer version.

Anthroposophy is a life philosophy that originated in theosophy. Rudolf Steiner, who was the leader of the German branch of the Theosophical Society, left theosophy in 1913 to set up the anthroposophical movement. The two philosophies have a great deal in common, but anthroposophy in general has a stronger Christian element.

According to legend, the Rosicrucians were an esoteric society in Germany who engaged in alchemy in the early 17th century. Today, there are many secret orders that claim to uphold the Rosicrucian traditions."

Notes from reading the entire Moderna Musseet website and The Guardian article:

-Hilma’s attempts to access the other side

- "There is a feeling that everything about this handsome city is a pledge against the dark, a wait for the light."... sounds familiar...

- Hilma is like Leonardo – she wanted to understand who we are as human beings in the cosmos.

- Hilma was “mathematical, scientific, musical – curious”. Spiritualism, she reminds us, was more intellectually respectable then. Yeats, Mahler, Mondrian, Kandinsky – all were in its thrall.

- She was a conduit first, then an interpreter.

- Seeker

- Cartographer of the spirit

Featured in Instyle Magazine, Poland