A reclusive figure, much of af Klint’s work has been hidden from the public by choice, until a record-breaking exhibition at the Guggenheim museum in 2018–19 elicited a new fascination for the artist’s ability to combine striking colours with a spiritual subtlety.
Director of The Gallery of New South Wales Michael Brand has said “Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover the extraordinary artistic achievements of this trailblazing artist who stood for too long outside the accepted story of European modernism.”
The exhibition includes more than 100 works by af Klint including early botanical watercolours, a collection of notebooks and The Ten Largest, a painting that spirals and blooms across ten canvases in soft shades, the outcome of af Klint’s exploration into the human life-cycle.
Born in Stockholm in 1862, af Klint studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts and like many of her fellow artists, become greatly absorbed by spiritualism.
A leading highlight of the exhibition is The Paintings for the Temple series, derived from af Klint’s spiritualist practice. Featuring geometric angles and gilded suns, the paintings are divorced from any allusions to the physical world and instead visualise the spiritual realm.
Af Klint rarely shared her abstract paintings during her lifetime and was adamant that her work was not be shown until 20 years after her death.
“In an era of limited creative freedom for women, Af Klint’s secret paintings became an outlet for her prodigious intelligence, spiritual quest and ground-breaking artistic vision,” Brand continues, “af Klint is at last taking her place in the canon of truly imaginative and innovative twentieth century artists.”
by Sophia Ford-Palmer
Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings will be exhibited at The Art Gallery of New South Wales from June 12 2021, to September 19, 2021.