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  • Susan Aaron

Visiting Galleries for Inspiration and Confirmation . . .


I recently visited the Guggenheim in New York to see the Hilma af Klint collection. She was an early abstract artist who wasn’t appreciated in her time. She also had a specific guide who helped her channel her artwork. As an abstract artist I can relate to this form and I also channel art with the help of my council of guides. So this is why I was eager to see her art in person.



"When Hilma af Klint began creating radically abstract paintings, 1906 in Stockholm, they were like little that had been see before: bold, colorful and untethered from recognizable references to the physical world. It was years before Vasily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and others would take similar strides to rid their own artwork of representational content. Yet while many of her better-known contemporaries published manifestos and exhibited widely, of Klint kept her ground-breaking paintings largely private. She rarely exhibited them, and convinced that the world was not yet ready to understand her work, stipulated that they not be shown for twenty years following her death. Ultimately, her abstractions remained all but unseen until 1986. eighty years after she began her monumental cycle, The Paintings for the Temple (1905-15).

At the outset of her career, in the late 1880's, af Klint pursued a more traditional artistic path and established herself as a respected landscape and portrait painter in Stockholm. She also became involved in a range of religious and occult teachings, including spiritualism, Theosopy, and Rosicrucianism. These two defining commitments - art and spirituality - remained separate until 1906, when af Klint began The Paintings for the Temple, the artworks that marked her pivotal break with figuration and her turn toward spiritual subject matters. She attributed the origins of these paintings in part to spirits that she channeled, and drew upon her own metaphysical convictions as she sought to represent a transcendent reality beyond the observable world. By 1915, when af Klint completed this project, it consisted of 193 paintings and works on paper. The artist imagined installing the cycle in a multilevel temple connected by a spiralling path - a design with strong, though coincidental, echoes of the Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd-Wright-designed building, itself conceived as "a temple of spirit." Over the next decades, until her death in 1944, af Klint continued to push the bounds of her new abstract vocabulary and spiritually derived subjects, as she experimented with form, theme, and seriality. Af Klint's decision to reserve her work for a future audience makes sits contemporary reception a fulfillment of the artist's wishes and a rare opportunity to rethink art history. Her achievements now call into question the standard narrative of abstraction’s development in the early twentieth century, demanding a re-evaluation of its timeline and key figures, as well as of the factors that shaped its trajectory - including geography, gender, and broader currents in intellectual and visual culture. The present exhibition, which focuses on af Klint's breakthrough years, constitutes a crucial step in amending that story. In this new light, af Klint emerges as an artist both of her times and decisively ahead of it." - Tracey Bashkoff, Director of Collection and Senior Curator, with David Horowitz, Curatorial Assistant

Her smaller paintings were lovely and colourful . . .


She did a series of paintings called Swans which I relate to having recently been gifted some wonderful swan feathers that I put on canvas. Here is a photo of my favourite swan painting of hers. Below that appears my 2 recent swan feather paintings.


Clearly black and white swans have meaning for me as well. Here are the two paintings that I did using black and white swan feathers. I put one swan feather on each painting and let the feather speak to me about what it wanted to express. So the two paintings are dramatically different in style and energy. She has the contrast within the one painting. Perhaps you can feel the sense of that when you look at these two paintings.


Her larger paintings are wonderful. It would be such a joy to express oneself at this scale. Just standing beside the paintings is a powerful experience. Perhaps you can feel the sense of that when you look at this painting below.


Visiting galleries to see other artists is an important exercise. We can find inspiration in how others approach the canvas and we can find confirmation when we feel a kinship in how our styles and color choices and texture choices feel familiar and similar.


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