Posts Tagged ‘Hilma af Klint The Swan

17
Jul
20

Exhibition: ‘Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium’ at Moderna Museet Malmö

Exhibition dates: 4th April 2020 – 21st February 2021

Curators: Iris Müller-Westermann and Milena Høgsberg

 

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie WU/Rosen, Grupp II, The Eros Series, No. 2' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie WU/Rosen, Grupp II, The Eros Series, No. 2
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

 

The third secret

Af Klint is one my favourite painters. At such an early date (preceding any man), she created new forms from her imagination, abstract forms, that connect to, and exist, on a celestial plane.

af Klint studied Theosophy and Rosicrucianism, expanding her consciousness, trusting that “knowledge of a deeper spiritual reality could be achieved through focused attention on intuition, meditation, and other means of transcending normal human consciousness.” All from 1906-07 onwards.

Her paintings and drawings emit an aura, her aura “drawn” into a cosmic aura, as a revelation of spirit – invisible dimensions that exist beyond the visible world – a connection from our reality to the spirit of the cosmos. Childhood; youth; adulthood; primordial chaos; eros; evolution; the altar and the tree of knowledge. All knowledge that allows us access to the divine, that opens us not to phenomena, but to the noumenal experiences of the felt, spiritual sublime.

Imagine af Klint painting her huge canvases on the floor of her studio, so many years before Jackson Pollock attempted the same connection to altered consciousness, and creating these symbolic and sensation/al masterpieces. Then to have the prescience to understand that the world was not ready for her art, would not understand it, had no way of comprehending the enormity of her artistic enquiry. To leave “a radical body of work – unprecedented in its use of colour, scale and composition – which she hoped future audiences might be better able to sense and decode.” All in hope!

Leaving everything to her nephew, she instructed him not to even open the boxes of her abstract art (which she never exhibited during her lifetime) until 20 years after her death in the late 1960s. In the ultimate irony, in 1970 her entire collection was offered to the Moderna Museet as a gift – the very museum in which this exhibition is being staged – AND THEY REFUSED THE GIFT.

What were the big wigs and curators (probably all men) at the Moderna Museet thinking in 1970? Didn’t they use their eyes, didn’t they sense the bravery of af Klint’s artistic enquiry, or feel the ecstatic (involving an experience of mystic self-transcendence) ecstasy of her work – that rapture of an emotional divine!

I am SO happy her work is now being acclaimed. For the force was truly with her.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Moderna Museet Malmö for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

The exhibition opens with the joyful series dedicated to Eros, the Greek god of love, associated with fertility and desire. Full of life, these pink-hued works take up the theme of polarity between male and female as the driving force of evolution. These abstract works completely differ from the classic representation of Eros.

In the series “The Seven-Pointed Star” (1908), Hilma af Klint experimented with a greater economy of line, depicting spiralling energy expanding outwards and forming new centres. As is the case with most of af Klint’s work, there is no singular meaning. Seven is a sacred number in many cultures, associated with divine order, and also the eternal harmony of the universe. In Theosophy the star cluster, known as the Seven Stars or the Pleiades, transmits spiritual energy that eventually reaches the human plane.

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie WU/Rosen, Grupp II, The Eros Series, No. 8' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie WU/Rosen, Grupp II, The Eros Series, No. 8
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

During the spring and summer of 2020, Moderna Museet Malmö will give its visitors an opportunity to become acquainted with the fascinating and ground-breaking Swedish artist Hilma af Klint in a comprehensive presentation. The exhibition will present, among other works, the series “The Ten Largest,” which will be shown in it’s entirety.

Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was a pioneer of abstraction. As early as 1906 she had developed a rich, symbolic imagery that preceded the more broadly recognised emergence of abstract art. Since her retrospective at Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 2013, interest in the Swedish artist has increased all over the world. The exhibition “Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium” further expands our understanding of this groundbreaking artist and researcher.

Hilma af Klint studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm from 1882 to 1887 where she focused on naturalistic landscape and portrait paintings. Like many of her contemporaries, af Klint also had a keen interest in invisible dimensions that exist beyond the visible world. When painting she was convinced that she was in contact with higher consciousness, which conveyed messages through her. Her major series, “The Paintings for the Temple”, became the crux of this artistic inquiry.

The exhibition centres on three aspects of Hilma af Klint’s life and interests – as artist, researcher and medium – that are key to revealing and understanding her art. With few exceptions, af Klint never exhibited her abstract works during her lifetime. Yet she left us with a radical body of work – unprecedented in its use of colour, scale and composition – which she hoped future audiences might be better able to sense and decode.

Hilma af Klint made paintings for the future, and that future is now.

 

Artist and Medium

Like many of her contemporaries at the turn of the twentieth century, Hilma af Klint sought to expand her consciousness in order to gain a wider perspective on what we perceive as reality. Consciousness remains one of the deepest mysteries in our time, a subject eagerly explored in neurology, psychology, quantum physics and epigenetics. As part of her spiritual practice, af Klint meditated, adhered to a vegetarian diet, and studied Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. These two esoteric schools thought knowledge of a deeper spiritual reality could be achieved through focused attention on intuition, meditation, and other means of transcending normal human consciousness. Over a period of ten years, af Klint met weekly with four other women, known as De fem (“The Five”). They trained their capability to access or “channel” higher levels of consciousness through contact with spiritual guides known as De Höga (“The Masters”). Af Klint received a specific assignment, which she accepted, known as “The Paintings for the Temple”. She worked throughout her life to understand the deeper meaning embedded in these works.

“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 brushstroke.” 

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The artist described how she painted the series as a medium, where shapes, colours and compositions came to her. Although af Klint perceived these works as flowing uninhibitedly through her guided hand, she very much applied herself and all her skills in the process: she worked methodically and sequentially in series, divided into thematically and formally focused groups exploring different aspects of cosmic and human evolution.

 

The Paintings for the Temple

Between 1906 and 1915, Hilma af Klint created “The Paintings for the Temple”. It comprises 193 paintings and drawings, divided into series and groups. Works produced between 1906 and 1908 are on view in the Turbine Hall; works from the second part of the series from 1912 to 1915 are on view in the upstairs galleries at Moderna Museet Malmö.

The overall theme of the series is to convey different aspects of human evolution, instigated by polarity. “The Paintings for the Temple” also thematises different stages of development that every human being goes through during life on earth. The temple in the title refers not only to a physical building, which af Klint imagined would house the work, but also to the body as a temple for the soul.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 1, Childhood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 1, Childhood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 2, Childhood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 2, Childhood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

Like many of the other series within “The Paintings for the Temple”, “The Ten Largest” seems somehow unfettered by limitations of place and time. Across ten canvases, swirling shapes in soft pastel colours rhythmically interact with cursive letters, forming a kind of visual poem. Petals, ovaries, flowers and spirals pulsate in constant sparks of creation. Hilma af Klint attributed this series to the exploration of the human life cycle, from childhood and youth to adulthood and old age. The artist created the ten works between November and December of 1907 on large sheets of paper later glued onto canvas. Given the unusual scale of the works, it is likely that af Klint painted each canvas, while it was lying flat on her studio floor.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 4, Youth' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 4, Youth
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 5, Adulthood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 5, Adulthood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, no. 6' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 6
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 7, Adulthood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 7, Adulthood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 8, Adulthood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 8, Adulthood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

On June 16, Moderna Museet Malmö opened again after having been closed for a time in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Finally, Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium, a comprehensive presentation of the artist with 230 works occupying the entire museum building, can be experienced by the public.

Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was an artist who allowed herself to take a broader perspective on life and who wanted to open up new ways of looking at reality. Her achievement as a pioneer of abstract art has been celebrated before, but with the exhibition Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium, Moderna Museet Malmö now wants to offer new insights into the artist’s systematic research.

“Hilma af Klint radically turned away from the portrayal of a visible reality,” says Iris Müller-Westermann. “For her, art making was about visualising contexts that lie beyond what the eye can see. Af Klint was convinced that she was connected to a higher level of consciousness when she was making her works. The exhibition argues that her spiritual practice was inextricably linked to her artistic practice. First and foremost, however, Hilma af Klint believed in the power of images.”

The whole Moderna Museet Malmö has been transformed into Hilma af Klint’s temple. The exhibition spans the artist’s entire career, and the selection of works examines the artist’s research into nature and the links between the visible and invisible worlds. In addition, the comprehensive exhibition touches on the artist’s own thoughts about her work and its various methods.

“Hilma af Klint had an inquisitive mind,” says Milena Høgsberg. “For her, painting was both an artistic activity and a spiritual one. When she was painting she meditatively allowed something bigger to pass through her and manifest itself in works of art. She then spent her life, systematically and analytically trying to understand the meaning behind her paintings, drawings, and writings.”

The heart of the exhibition are The Paintings for the Temple (1906-15), which the artist considered her most important works. They also include the magnificent series The Ten Largest from 1907.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a comprehensive and richly illustrated catalogue has been produced, with essays by Iris Müller-Westermann, Milena Høgsberg in conversation with Tim Rudbøg, Hedvig Martin, Ernst Peter Fischer, and Anne Sophie Jørgensen. The exhibition catalogue has been published in two editions – one in Swedish and one in English.

Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium will be on view at Moderna Museet Malmö until September 27, 2020.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation views, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'De tio största, nr 9, Ålderdomen, grupp IV' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
De tio största, nr 9, Ålderdomen, grupp IV
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/UW, nr 25, The Dove, No. 1' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/UW, nr 25, The Dove, No. 1
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

“The Dove” (1915) depicts the creation process. It draws upon Christian symbols such as the dove for spirit, peace and unity. It also thematises the battle between the forces of light and darkness through the allegory of Saint George and the Dragon.

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Dove, no. 9' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Dove, no. 9
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing at left The Dove, No. 1, and at right The Dove, No. 9
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group I, Primordial Chaos, No. 10' 1906

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Group I, Primordial Chaos, No. 10
1906
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group I, Primordial Chaos, No. 15' 1906-1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Primordial Chaos, No. 15
1906-1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

“Primordial Chaos” (1906-07) is devoted to the creation of the physical world. From the original unity a polarised world arose out of spirit, shown here as feminine (blue and the eyelet) and masculine (yellow and the hook), and also as W (material) and U (spirit). These works are full of spirals of energy and sparks of creation, of symbols of fertility and rebirth (sperm, snakes, crosses).

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing at left works from the series Evolution, and at centre works from the series Primordial Chaos
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group VI, The Evolution, No. 7' 1908

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Group VI, The Evolution, No. 7
1908
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

The theme of the evolution of consciousness runs throughout “The Paintings for the Temple”. In the series “Evolution” (1908), the process of development is shown through the interplay between polarities: male and female, light and darkness, good and evil. Compositionally these works strive to find a balance, in horizontal and vertical mirroring. Hilma af Klint’s exploration seems aligned with the theosophist notion of evolution as a spiritual process, extending beyond the biological perspective on human development that, with the publishing of Darwin’s “The Evolution of the Species” fifty years earlier, had gained widespread notoriety. This series ends the first part of “The Paintings for the Temple”, as the commission was paused between 1908 and 1912.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group VI, The Evolution, No. 9' 1908

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Group VI, The Evolution, No. 9
1908
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group VI, The Evolution, No. 10' 1908

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Evolution, No. 10
1908
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing work from the series The Swan
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, nr 1., The Swan, No. 1' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, nr 1., The Swan, No. 1
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

When Hilma af Klint resumed her work on “The Paintings for the Temple” in 1912, her abstraction became more geometric in nature, and Christian symbols became increasingly pronounced. When working, the artist was still in contact with higher planes of consciousness but was encouraged to interpret spiritual messages more freely.

Viewed in sequence, “The Swan” (1914-15) has a distinct visual rhythm. Often a horizontal line breaks the canvases into two sections where opposite forces meet – light and dark, male and female, life and death. These poles unfold as a black and white swan. Eventually, figuration gives way to abstraction in a fuller spectrum of colour. In the final work in the series, the swan pair returns, unified at the centre, intertwined yet distinct and balanced as male and female poles.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Swan, No. 8' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 8
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 9' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 9
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 16' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 16
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 17' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 17
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 21' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 21
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 23' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 23
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing work from the series The Swan
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Altarpiece Grupp X, No. 1' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Altarpiece Grupp X, No. 1
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Altarpiece Group X, No. 2' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Altarpiece Group X, No. 2
1915
Oil and metal leaf on canvas
93.75 x 70.5 inches
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

Hilma af Klint understood the three powerful “Altarpieces” (1915) as the essence of “The Paintings for the Temple”. These works capture the two directions of spiritual evolution: the ascension from the material world back to unity (the triangle pointing to the golden circle) and the descension from divine unity into the diversity of the material world (the inverted triangle). In the third and final painting, a small six-pointed star within the large golden circle is an esoteric symbol for the universe.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation views, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing work from the series Altarpieces
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Altarpiece Grupp X, No. 3' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Altarpiece Grupp X, No. 3
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Parsifal Grupp I, No. 1' 1916

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Parsifal Grupp I, No. 1
1916
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

The title of this series from 1916 may refer to the legend of King Arthur, in which Parsifal, one of the Knights of the Round Table, takes part in the quest for the Holy Grail. On 144 sheets, of which a selection is on view, Hilma af Klint depicts the search for knowledge as a journey through various levels of consciousness. In the first image this is marked by a winding path through the darkness towards the white light at the centre of the spiral. In other works, a young boy, shown in different ages, attempts to balance between matter and spirit, up and down. This exploration is continued in radically conceptual yellow monochromes, inscribed with words marking direction: “Nedåt” (downward), “Framåt” (forward), “Bakåt” (backward), “Utåt” (outward) and “Inåt” (inward). Parsifal’s journey also mirrors the artist’s own process in the inward journey she has undertaken by accepting, completing and trying to understand “The Paintings for the Temple”.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Parsifal Grupp II, No. 69' 1916

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Parsifal Grupp II, No. 69
1916
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Parsifal Grupp III, No. 110' 1916

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Parsifal Grupp III, No. 110
1916
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Parsifal Grupp III, No. 117' 1916

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Parsifal Grupp III, No. 117
1916
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'No title, No. 22' 1917

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
No title, No. 22
1917
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

De Fem – Drawings

Between 1896 and 1906, Hilma af Klint and four other women formed the group “De Fem” (“The Five”). They met weekly to meditate, read spiritual literature and accesses higher consciousness through communication with spirit guides, “De Höga” (“The Masters”). These meetings were meticulously recorded in writing and led even to automatic drawings. The women took turns to wield the pen during their sessions, but individual authorship was not important, and rarely indicated on the drawings. The pastel works on view exhibit elements that recur in af Klint’s later work – for example, spiral, stylised floral motifs and other geometrical forms.

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation views, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing at bottom left, the Tree of Knowledge series 1915; and at centre right, work from Late Series
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

 

New Gallery is dedicated to Hilma af Klint the researcher, specifically her effort to process and understand the deeper meaning of her spiritually guided work in paintings, drawings and writing, from the 1890s to 1930s. Af Klint had an inquisitive mind. She came from a family of naval officers and nautical cartographers and approached her artistic practice with structured rigour. While she had the courage to open herself to let something larger flow through her while painting, she approached the resulting body of work in a systematic and analytic way. 

Throughout her life, af Klint took copious notes, regarding her experiences and interpretations of the messages she apprehended through her spiritual practice. After completing “The Paintings for the Temple”, the artist tried to methodically gain an overview of her work and its possible meanings. In the spirit of a scientific researcher, she edited and reorganised her early notes, created a dictionary of the symbols that appeared in her works and catalogued all the works in “The Paintings for the Temple” in a portable portfolio. Remarkably, af Klint understood all of her works of art as a unified project – a notion radical for the time, but also a testament to the fact that she believed her work to have a higher purpose.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Tree of Knowledge, No. 3' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Tree of Knowledge, No. 3
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

In the series the “Tree of Knowledge” (1913-15), Hilma af Klint maps the different spiritual planes of existence in order to picture the complexity of existence and the connection between the earth and the divine. In later series like “Series IV” (1920) and “VII” (1920), af Klint seems to focus her research on symbols such as the cross, the circle and the triangle as well as the six-pointed star and processes these sacred symbols instigate. Many of these works are characterised by a geometric idiom and involve analysis on both the macrocosmic and microcosmic level.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Tree of Knowledge, No. 5' (Kunskapens träd, nr 5) 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Tree of Knowledge, No. 5
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group 2, No title, No. 14a - No. 21' 1919

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Group 2, No title, No. 14a – No. 21
1919
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

 

The Blue Books

In 1917, Hilma af Klint had a studio built on Munsö, where for the first time she had the possibility of seeing all “The Paintings for the Temple’s” different series in their entirety. Perhaps this is what precipitated the creation of the ten blue-bound books, a portable overview of “The Paintings for the Temple”. On each spread, a work is represented by a black-and-white photograph and a watercolour intended to give an accurate impression of the original. In some of the watercolours, af Klint adds close-ups and lets us examine the work as if through a microscope in order to further clarify what was not clear enough in the paintings. The works were organised in concordance with the order of the series. This tremendous effort demonstrates that af Klint wanted to reinvestigate and reflect on her life’s work in a systematic way and perhaps to share it more easily with others.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Atom, No. 5' 1917

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Atom, No. 5
1917
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

 

 

In “The Atom Series” from 1917, Hilma af Klint explored another aspect of life that could not be perceived by the human eye: the world of atoms and their energy, a science popular at the time. Apart from the first two drawings, all feature two renderings of an atom: a large one in the lower right, which represents the energy of a physical atom, and a smaller one in the upper left, which represents the atom on an etheric or metaphysical plane. In handwritten notes, af Klint describes the atom as embodying human properties. For the theosophists, whom the artist studied, the discovery of atoms, sub-particle waves etc., were seen as proof of an invisible reality beyond the perceptible world. For af Klint, atoms and thus humans were spiritual entities connected to the centre of the universe.

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Violet Blossoms with Guidelines, Series I' 1919

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Violet Blossoms with Guidelines, Series I
1919
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

 

Botanical Studies

Throughout her life, Hilma af Klint had a deep interest in nature and botany. Her early botanical studies up to the late watercolours, convey that she was not only a keen observer, but also possessed a rigorously analytic mind, which she could apply in her endeavour to perceive aspects of existence beyond the visible.

Her botanical studies reveal a shifting focus from naturalistic renderings of plant-life as she observed it, to renderings intended to express the spiritual essence or presence beyond the visible body. In “The Violet, Blossoms with Guidelines, Series 1” (1919) she combines naturalistic renderings of the flower with a diagram of its essence. In “Blumen, Moose, Flechten” [Flowers, Moss, Lichens] (1919-20), represented here as a facsimile, af Klint continues with her systematic investigation of the plant kingdom. She combines a diagram with the plant’s Latin name and the date of investigation, alongside properties such as joy, humility and devotion, which one can attempt to come in contact with through contemplation on the plant in question. By 1923, af Klint made yet another stylistic shift, influenced by Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical views on aesthetics and her visits to the The Goetheanum, the centre for the anthroposophical movement in Dornach, Switzerland. Here af Klint gave up painting geometric compositions and began instead portraying the spiritual dimension of nature in fluid watercolours.

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Vid betraktandet av blommor och träd' (When considering flowers and trees) 1922

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Vid betraktandet av blommor och träd (When considering flowers and trees)
1922
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Titel saknas' 1924

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Titel saknas
1924
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

 

Moderna Museet Malmö
Gasverksgatan 22 in Malmö

Moderna Museet Malmö is located in the city centre of Malmö. Ten minutes walk from the Central station, five minutes walk from Gustav Adolfs torg and Stortorget.

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Thursday – Sunday 11-17
Wednesday 11-19
Mondays closed

Moderna Museet Malmö website

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22
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction’ at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Exhibition dates:  16 February – 26 May 2013

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I don’t often say this about an artist but OMG, I am in love!

Five years before Wassily Kandinsky (he of the book Concerning the Spiritual In Art 1910), before Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich, the images of Carl Jung (The Red Book) and Rudolf Steiner (Blackboard Drawings 1919-1924) – who dismissed her ideas as wrong – was this revolutionary artist and abstractionist, Hilma af Klint, possibly the first purely abstract painter to produced non-objective works in the early 1900’s. While her more conventional painting became the source of her financial income her ‘life’s work’ remained a quite separate practice and hidden from view. She worked in isolation with little knowledge of the Avant-garde movement in Europe and requested that her complex and articulate paintings not be shown until 20 years after her death.

“Through her work with the group “the Five” af Klint created experimental automatic drawing as early as 1896, leading her towards an inventive geometric visual language capable of conceptualising invisible forces both of the inner and outer worlds. Quite apart from their diagrammatic purpose the paintings have a freshness and a modern aesthetic of tentative line and hastily captured image: a segmented circle, a helix bisected and divided into a spectrum of lightly painted colours. She continued prolifically to add to the body of work amounting to over 1000 pieces until 1941. She requested that it should not be shown until 20 years after the end of her life. In 1970 her paintings were offered as a gift to Moderna Museet in Stockholm, which declined the donation.” (Text from Wikipedia)

Ironic then is it not, that this first major exhibition of Hilma af Klint’s life’s work is at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. How times and attitudes change. And yes, I have ordered the catalogue…

Marcus

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“Negotiating around the masculine domain of art making by working through automatism and spiritual séances, Hilma af Klint appears to allow herself more freedom and reverence by working directly through ‘High Masters’ in their masculine form; through instructed spiritualist experience. Influenced heavily by the infamous Madame Blavatsky, the co-founder of The Theosophical Society and writer of ‘The Secret Doctrine’, af Klint’s ‘High Masters’ guided her hand in an attempt to gain spiritual knowledge of the self and of the universe…

Her occult diaries containing symbols of crosses, mystical vowels, dead sea scrolls, astral and metaphysical planes, mystical initials, strange vowels cross over to the larger works, continuing to make the viewer work hard at understanding what message is being sent. It is then that you notice the rest of the space with painting after painting hung mainly in series, working their way with fluidity around the many walls contained within the exhibiting space. Cubicles of watercolours denoting The Tree of Life, Studies of world religions, paintings for the temple, they are all there. It is clear that af Klint was prolific in her secretive world but it is hard to imagine how she managed to keep all these vast works hidden from view.

It is clear that Klint has some understanding of scientific breakthroughs in her time however her occult physics, chemistry and mathematical understanding appears ahead of its time. Her provocative nature appears to ask questions of sexuality, suggests male and female equality and is probably through this enquiry, still seen as revolutionary. In light of this, af Klint experienced continuous dismissal of her working practices and ideas linked to the scientific and mathematical study of spiritual knowledge. Her friends describe her work as ‘inappropriate’ and her contemporary Rudolph Steiner, founder of The Anthroposophical Society dismissed her ideas as wrong when asked by personal invitation to view them, claiming that she couldn’t have contact with spirits in that way although he doesn’t appear to state clearly for what reason.”

Open College for the Arts tutor Hayley Lock on the We Are OCA website

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Many thankx to Moderna Museet for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Photographer unknown. 'Portrait of Hilma af Klint' Nd

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Photographer unknown
Portrait of Hilma af Klint
Nd

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Installation views of Hilma af Klint - A Pioneer of Abstraction, 2013

Installation views of Hilma af Klint - A Pioneer of Abstraction, 2013

Installation views of Hilma af Klint - A Pioneer of Abstraction, 2013

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Installation views of Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction, 2013
© Photo: Åsa Lundén/ Moderna Museet

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“In Spring 2013 Moderna Museet is dedicating a major exhibition to Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), featuring many works that have never before been shown in public. This retrospective exhibition of a Swedish pioneer of abstract art is Moderna Museet’s tribute to Hilma af Klint as one of the greatest Swedish artists. A woman artist whose work is still far too unknown to a wider public, Hilma af Klint eschewed representational painting as early as 1906. Between 1906 and 1915, she produced nearly 200 abstract paintings, some of which are in monumental formats.

Like Vassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich, who have previously been regarded as the main protagonists of abstract art, Hilma af Klint was influenced by contemporary spiritual movements, such as spiritism, theosophy and, later, anthroposophy. 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.

Hilma af Klint’s groundbreaking images were created in the early years of the 20th century – before the dawn of abstract art in Russia and Europe. Her works are not concerned with abstraction of colour and shapes for its own sake, but are an attempt to portray that which is not visible. Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian also explored a spiritual dimension. Kandinsky moved away from Expressionism and gradually left visible reality behind. He had a great interest in the occult and published On the Spiritual in Art in 1911. Malevich arrived via Cubism and Futurism at his suprematist, abstract and exceedingly spiritual images. Mondrian successively turned his back on figurative portrayals of that which the eye can see, reducing his compositions to a play of vertical and horizontal lines, and to the primary colours red, yellow and blue, with white and black. As a theosophist, he was striving for a purely spiritual expression of the eternal ideas beyond the visible world. Spiritual searching was thus an essential element to many of the modernists who moved towards an abstract imagery. Unlike Hilma af Klint, Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian did not claim to be acting as mediums in their creative process. This was an experience, however, that she had in common with artists such as the artists František Kupka (1871-1957), Emma Kunz (1892-1963) and the writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885).

Hilma af Klint left more than 1,000 paintings, watercolours and sketches. Although she exhibited her early, representational works, she refused to show her abstract paintings during her lifetime. In her will, she stipulated that these groundbreaking works must not be shown publicly until 20 years after her death. She was convinced that only then would the world be fully and completely ready to understand their significance.

Moderna Museet’s retrospective exhibition presents Hilma af Klint’s most important abstract works, as well as paintings and works on paper that have never before been presented publicly, enhancing our understanding of her oeuvre. Her extensive diaries and notebooks have been included in the research for this exhibition, which comprises some 200 paintings and works on paper and will tour internationally in 2013-2015.

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About the artist

Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was a pioneer of art that turned away from visible reality. By 1906, she had developed an abstract imagery. This was several years before Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) and Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935), who are still regarded as the pioneers of abstract 20th-century art. 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.

In her will, Hilma af Klint wrote that her abstract works must not be made accessible to the public until at least twenty years after her death. She was convinced that their full meaning could not be understood until then. One hundred years ago, Hilma af Klint painted pictures for the future.

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A Woman Artist at the Turn of the Century 

Hilma af Klint began her art studies at Tekniska Skolan in Stockholm and also had lessons in portrait painting. Between 1882 and 1887, she was a student at the Royal Academy of the Fine Arts. After graduating and until 1908, she had a studio at Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm. She painted and exhibited portraits and landscapes in a naturalist style. In the late 1870s, Hilma af Klint attended séances, where a medium contacted the dead. There was a great fascination for invisible phenomena at the time. This can be seen in relation to scientific discoveries, such as x-rays that could reveal internal human organs, and electromagnetic waves that led to the development of radio and telephony.

In 1896, Hilma af Klint and four other women formed the group “De Fem” [The Five]. They made contact with “high masters” from another dimension, and made meticulous notes on their séances. This led to a definite change in Hilma af Klint’s art. She began practising automatic writing, which involves writing without consciously guiding the movement of the pen on the paper. She developed a form of automatic drawing, predating the surrealists by decades. Gradually, she eschewed her naturalist imagery, in an effort to free herself from her academic training. She embarked on an inward journey, into a world that is hidden from most people.

Press release from the Moderna Museet website

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Hilma-af-Klint-arbete

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Hilma af Klint
From A Work on Flowers, Mosses and Lichen, July 2 1919
1919
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk/Photo: Moderna Museet, Albin Dahlström

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Hilma af Klint. 'Evolution, No. 7, Group VI, The WUS/Seven-Pointed Star Series' 1908

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Hilma af Klint
Evolution, No. 7, Group VI, The WUS/Seven-Pointed Star Series
1908
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk, foto Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Hilma af Klint. 'Untitled' Nd

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Hilma af Klint
Untitled
Nd

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Swan, No. 17, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series' 1915

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Hilma af Klint
The Swan, No. 17, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series
1915
© Courtesy Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Foto: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Swan, No. 1, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series' 1915

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

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Swan' 1914

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Hilma af Klint
The Swan
1914

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Symbols

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,blue and yellow, and the lily and the rose represent femininity and masculinity respectively. W stands 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 dove represents the holy spirit and love.

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Terminology

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.

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Hilma af Klint. 'Tree of Knowledge' 1913

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Hilma af Klint
Tree of Knowledge
1913

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Hilma af Klint. 'Primordial Chaos, No. 16, Group I, The WU/Rose Series' 1906-1907

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Hilma af Klint
Primordial Chaos, No. 16, Group I, The WU/Rose Series
1906-1907
© Courtesy Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Foto: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Hilma af klint. 'The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5, Group III, The Key to All Works to Date, The WU/Rose Series' 1907

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Hilma af klint
The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5, Group III, The Key to All Works to Date, The WU/Rose Series
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk/Photo: Moderna Museet, Albin Dahlström

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, Group IV' 1907

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Hilma af Klint
The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, Group IV
1907
© Courtesy Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Foto: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Ten Largest, No. 1' 1907

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Hilma af Klint
The Ten Largest, No. 1
1907

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Dove, No. 3, Group IX/ UW, The SUW/UW Series' 1915

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Hilma af Klint
The Dove, No. 3, Group IX/ UW, The SUW/UW Series
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk/Photo: Moderna Museet, Albin Dahlström

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Hilma af Klint. 'Altarpiece, No. 1, Group X, Altarpiece Series' 1915

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Hilma af Klint
Altarpiece, No. 1, Group X, Altarpiece Series
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk, foto Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Moderna Museet is ten minutes away from Kungsträdgården, and twenty minutes from T-Centralen or Gamla Stan. Walk past Grand Hotel and Nationalmuseum on Blasieholmen, opposite the Royal Palace. After crossing the bridge to Skeppsholmen, continue up the hill. The entrance to Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet is on the left-hand side.

Opening hours:
Tuesday 10-20
Wednesday-Sunday 10-18
Monday closed

Moderna Museet website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Padlocks/People’ 1994-96

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