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The Secret Mystical Paintings of International Art Sensation, Hilma af Klint

Art

When Hilma af Klint’s paintings emerged from storage after decades, they took the modern art world by storm. In 2019, The Guggenheim in New York held a survey show of the monumental works. The exhibition smashed the gallery’s attendance records. Enormous, colourful and infused with mysticism, these paintings, created as early as 1906, are widely believed to be some of the earliest examples of abstract art.

Since that exhibition, waves of love for the nearly-forgotten revolutionary artist has bubbled up around the world. On the back of this success, a juggernaut international exhibition of these works will finally make its first foray to the Asia Pacific when it opens in Sydney tomorrow. Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings will be on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until September. We cannot wait to see this truly unmissable show!

11th June, 2021

View of The Ten Larges on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings. Photo – Jenni Carter.

Group IV, The Ten Largest, No 2, ‘Childhood’. Courtesy of Hilma af Klint Foundation. Photo – The Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Group IV, The Ten Largest, No 3, ‘Youth’ by Hilma af Klint. Courtesy of Hilma af Klint Foundation. Photo – The Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Each painting in The Ten Larges is over three metres tall! Hilma af Klint: The Secret paintings will be on at AGNSW 12 June – 19 September, 2021. Photo – Jenni Carter.

Group IV, The Ten Largest, No 5, ‘Adulthood’, 1907 by Hilma af Klint. Courtesy of Hilma af Klint Foundation. Photo – The Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Hilma af Klint at her studio in Hamngatan 5, Stockholm, 1895. Photo courtesy of Hilma af Klint Foundation, Stockholm.

Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future at the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York. Photo – David Heald.

Group IX/UW, ‘The Dove’, No 2, 1915 by Hilma af Klint. Courtesy of Hilma af Klint Foundation. Photo – The Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Group IV, The Ten Largest, No 7, ‘Adulthood’, 1907 by Hilma af Klint. Courtesy of Hilma af Klint Foundation. Photo – The Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Hilma af Klint was heavily involved in the mysticism and spiritual groups of the time. Her paintings are infused with this occult symbology. Photo – Jenni Carter.

Group X, ‘Altarpiece’ no 1, 1915 by Hilma af Klint. Courtesy of Hilma af Klint Foundation. Photo – The Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Group I, ‘Primordial Chaos, no 16, 1906-7 by Hilma af Klint. Courtesy of Hilma af Klint Foundation. Photo – The Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Sasha Gattermayr
Friday 11th June 2021

When Swedish modernist painter Hilma af Klint died in 1944, she left explicit instructions for her paintings to be kept in storage for two decades – believing that the world was not yet ready to see her vibrant, monumental canvases infused with intense spiritualism.

She was right. Her family rediscovered the trove of hidden works in the 1960s and offered it to the Stockholm Moderna Museet as a gift, which the institution rejected. It wasn’t until 2013 that the same museum would host the first retrospective of her work, and send shockwaves through the international art community.

After a record-breaking stint at the New York Guggenheim in 2019, the cult-status paintings will now make their way to the Asia Pacific for the first time. Opening tomorrow in Sydney, Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings brings together more than 120 works, including The Ten Larges – ten 3-metre tall canvases illustrating the stages of the human life cycle.

Hilma’s paintings radically re-draw the male-centric timelines of 20th century art history. Created as early as 1906, her epic works pre-date those of Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian who were widely considered the fathers of the modernist art movement.

A member of the avant-garde mystic movement, Hilma was also known for holding seances at her house, and investing deeply in the burgeoning spiritualism of the time. Her large abstract shapes are drawn from occult symbology, and contain messages about human life relayed from the spiritual world. Kooky and fabulous!

The exhibition will also include examples of her early watercolours and Primordial Chaos – a series of 26 works which marks Hilma’s first steps away from naturalism and towards revolutionary experiments with abstraction. The program will be accompanied by a screening of the new documentary, Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint; and a two-day symposium of online talks.

‘This exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover the extraordinary artistic achievements of an artist whose re-discovered work is now captivating audiences around the world and prompting museums to question art history narratives,’ says gallery director Dr Michael Brand.

‘Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings’ will open at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on 12 June and continue until 19 September. Tickets are on sale now.

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