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Hilma af Klint. A Pioneer of Abstraction


From 21st October, 2013 to 9th February, 2014, Museo Picasso Málaga presents for the first time in Spain the unique work of Hilma af Klint, the Swedish artist who at the start of the 20th century embarked upon one of the most surprising paths that led to Abstract art.

Hilma af Klint was ahead of her time, creating an enigmatic body of work that aimed to depict a reality beyond the visible. It still has the power to impress with its forms and consistency, and a wealth of symbolism that confronts viewers with the eternal great questions concerning the essence of being and the meaning of life.

Most of these works were never exhibited during the artist&rsquo";“s lifetime. She did not wish them to be shown publicly until twenty years after her death, as she felt they would not be understood before that time. As the exhibition&rsquo”;“s curator, Iris M&uuml”;“ller-Westermann, says: &ldquo”;“it could be said that over a hundred years ago, Hilma af Klint painted for the future. And the future is now&rdquo”;".

Hilma af Klint. A Pioneer of Abstraction is the most extensive exhibition ever held of the work of Hilma af Klint (1862-1944). After being shown at prestigious museums such as Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the exhibition comes to Museo Picasso Málaga, presenting for the first time in Spain the work of this unusual artist, with more than 200 works that summarize her complex, consistent and radical career. They will later be on show at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, in Denmark.

Hilma af Klint&rsquo";“s work is captivating because of its vivid colour, balanced and often geometric compositions, and the monumental size of a number of her paintings. Using an abstract style that was still virtually unexplored at that point of the early 20th century, her work reveals how she undertook to portray the connection between the spiritual and the material, the microcosm and macrocosm, light and darkness, female and male. Her aim was to depict the duality by which the world is driven and, in the artist&rsquo”;“s own words, to produce the &ldquo”;“primeval image&rdquo”;" that reconciles opposites and conveys the unity from which, in her opinion, all things are derived.

To do this, Hilma af Klint used a delicate symbolism that was laden with references and meanings. They sought to guide the viewer towards some kind of revelation and understanding of notions which, above and beyond their complex nature, simply represent the natural human yearning for transcendence, in a pioneering way.

A time of change and discovery Hilma af Klint&rsquo";"s work is the product of her artistic training, strong creative personality and incessant spiritual restlessness. It is also the reflection of a very specific period and social context that coincided with the transition from the 19th to the 20th century, when the West was being repeatedly surprised by scientific progress - which was proving that something existed beyond the tangible - such as X-rays in 1895 and the discovery of electromagnetic waves. It was also a time when translations of the sacred texts of other religions were being made available to the public, and this led to trends such as historicism, relativism and, sometimes, agnosticism. People were questioning whether religion is just a product of the society in which it appears and for that reason, some of them attempted to seek out a higher truth that went beyond merely cultural conditioning factors.

This gave rise to such movements as Occultism, which attempted to penetrate the secrets of nature";" Theosophy, which sought the fundamental truth underlying all beliefs";" and Rudolf Steiner&rsquo";"s Anthroposophy, inspired by Theosophy, but with a strong Christian element to it. They were all attempting to supply an answer to the questions that were arising in new times. Hilma af Klint became involved in this intellectual quest, which was shared and disseminated by writers, thinkers and philosophers. She acted as a medium at spiritualist sessions, practiced automatic writing, and claimed to have painted a large number of her pictures while directly linked to her guides in the other world.

Unlike the work of Wassily Kandisky, Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich, who were considered by academic art historians to have been the pioneers of Abstract, most of Klint&rsquo";"s works were never exhibited during her lifetime. She wrote in her last will and testament that her abstract works were not to be shown publically until twenty years after her death, because she was convinced they would not be understood until that time.

Almost a century later, Hilma af Klint. A Pioneer of Abstraction brings this exceptional artist into the public eye. The exhibition is the result of thorough research into her entire body of work &ndash";" she left over 1,000 artworks &ndash";" her 125 notebooks, and boxes that had lain unopened for decades.

Exhibition organized by Moderna Museet, Stockholm, in collaboration with Hamburger Bahnhof-Museum f&uuml";“r Gegenwart, Berlin, Museo Picasso Málaga and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek. Curator: Iris M&uuml”;“ller-Westermann. Assistant Curator: Jo Widoff. With the collaboration of the Embassy of Sweden and Obra Social &ldquo”;“La Caixa&rdquo”;".

Book and seminar To coincide with Hilma af Klint. Pioneer of Abstract, four editions of a book have been published, in Spanish, Swedish, English and German. They contain essays by the curator, Iris M&uuml";“ller-Westermann”;" by Pascal Rousseau, Professor of Contemporary Art History at the Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne";" and by David Lomas, Professor of Art History at the University of Manchester. It also contains an illustrative discussion of spiritualism, theosophy and anthroposophy, between the curator and Helmut Zander, from the Université de Fribourg, an expert in religious studies. The book contains photographs of the works on display.

On Tuesday 22nd and Wednesday 23rd October, and also within the context of the exhibition, Museo Picasso Málaga will be holding a series of talks entitled Abstraction and Theosophy in the Avant-garde, the aim of which is to examine the relationship between these two concepts and the work of the Swedish artist. The speakers will be Marco Pasi, Associate Professor at the Universiteit van Amsterdam";" Delfín Rodríguez, Professor of Art History at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid";" Hans Dieter Huber, Professor of Contemporary Art History, Aestehtics and Art Theory at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart";" and Iris M&uuml";"ller-Westermann. Both sessions will be held in the MPM Auditorium, and start at 7.00pm. Admission is free until all seats are taken.

Educational Activities To put Hilma af Klint&rsquo";“s work into context, an educational area has been set up in Room XII for examining some of the questions posed by her work. With texts, photographs, videos and documentary material, visitors can get to know more about the close ties between abstract art and spirituality, about how scientific developments at the turn of the century affected society&rsquo”;"s perception of time and space, and the increasing number of alternatives to traditional Christian doctrine that appeared.

The exhibition will also be the central theme of the Gallery Talks guided tours, which are held every Thursday at 6pm. To take part, just put your name down at the ticket office. The tour is free with admission.

For night owls, and to celebrate MP&rsquo";“s 10th anniversary, on the night of Saturday 26th to Sunday 27th October, at midnight, 1am and 2am, there will be a guided tour, The Art of the Invisible, which will look at hidden aspects of Hilma af Klint&rsquo”;"s work that are linked to esotericism and the occult.

For schools, MPM has prepared a series of workshops based on the exhibition. Check the museum website for more information. Bearing in mind the large Scandinavian community residing in Malaga province, a programme of activities has been specially organized for them. Guided tours, workshops and school visits will be offered in their own languages. The full programme can be seen on the museum website.

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Related Exhibition

Hilma af Klint

A Pioneer of Abstraction