Active at the beginning of the 20th century, Hilma af Klint is considered a pioneer of abstract modernist painting. Her work is sometimes understood in the context of early Modernism, where artists were searching for new ways of representing aesthetics, politics, science and spirituality.
Yet for Hilma af Klint, the paintings resulted through direct influences from the spirit world. Her paintings were very much connected to her beliefs in Theosophy and Rosencreutz. Hilma af Klint created over 1200 paintings that are vivid and experimental, incorporating symbolism and text. However, the artist never exhibited these paintings during her lifetime, understanding they offered a radical new trajectory for art that might only be appreciated in the future.
Hilma af Klint’s Blue Sketchbooks had a discursive quality as part of the artist’s everyday experiences. They contain photographs of her paintings alongside painted reproductions in colour, as photography only existed at that time in black and white. The painter would show the images in her books to people she met, and engage them in conversation about what the meaning of the image could be.
This life of searching for meaning was also enacted through spiritual activities together with others practicing theosophy, a small community in Sweden at that time, in a country with low levels of belief. She was part of a group of female artists named De Fem (The Five), who would meet each Friday. The group conducted Christian sermons and meditated, analysed the New Testament and attempted to contact the spirit world. The group would also create automatic drawings in sketchbooks through channelling ‘The High Masters’.
Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) lived and worked in Stockholm.
Hilma af Klint’s works are presented at Göteborgs Konsthall.
Supported by Milox
Blåbok #4, installation view WheredoIendandyoubegin – On Secularity, Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art 2017, Göteborgs Konsthall. Photo Hendrik Zeitler.