Discover Hilma af Klint Pioneering Mystical Painter and Perhaps the First Abstract Artist

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In a post last year, Colin Marshall wrote of the Swedish abstract painter Hilma af Klint, who “developed abstract imagery,” notes Sweden’s Moderna Museet, “several years before” contemporaries like Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich. Much like Kandinsky, who articulated his theories in the treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art, af Klint “assumed that there was a spiritual dimension to life and aimed at visualizing context beyond what the eye can see.” Influenced by spiritualism and theosophy, she “sought to understand and communicate the various dimensions of human existence.”

Born in 1862 and raised in the Swedish countryside, af Klint began her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm after her family relocated to the city. “After graduating and until 1908,” Moderna Museet writes, “she had a studio at Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm.

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She painted and exhibited portraits and landscapes in a naturalist style.” But as a result of her experiences in séances in the late 1870s, af Klint became interested in “invisible phenomena.”

In 1896, Hilma af Klint and four other women formed the group “De Fem” [The Five]. They made contact with “high masters” from another dimension, and made meticulous notes on their séances. This led to a definite change in Hilma af Klint’s art. She began practising automatic writing, which involves writing without consciously guiding the movement of the pen on the paper. She developed a form of automatic drawing, predating the surrealists by decades. Gradually, she eschewed her naturalist imagery, in an effort to free herself from her academic training. She embarked on an inward journey, into a world that is hidden from most people.

During one such séance, in 1904, af Klint reported that she had “received a ‘commission,’” Kate Kellaway writes at The Guardian, “from an entity named Amaliel who told her to paint on ‘an astral plane’ and represent the ‘immortal aspects of man.’”

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From 1906 to 1915, she produced 193 paintings, “an astonishing outpouring,” which she called “Paintings for the Temple.”

Hers is a strange story. Even in a time when many famous contemporaries, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, professed similar beliefs and spiritual practices, not many claimed to be taking dictation directly from spirits in their work. The question af Klint raises for art historians is whether she was “a quirky outsider” or “Europe’s first abstract painter, central to the history of abstract art.” Her mystical eccentricities constitute a large part of the reason she has remained obscure for so long. Rather than seek fame and acclaim for her originality, af Klint stipulated when she died in 1944 at age 81 that “her work—1,200 paintings, 100 texts and 26,000 pages of notes—should not be shown until 20 years after her death.”

Still, it took a further 22 years before her work was seen in public, at a 1986 Los Angeles show called “The Spiritual in Art.”

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While her peers developed large followings in their lifetimes and took part in influential movements, af Klint cultivated a private, insular world all her own, not unlike that of William Blake, who also remained mostly obscure during his life, though not necessarily by choice. Her choice to hide her work came out of an early encounter, Dangerous Minds notes, with Rudolf Steiner, “who was similarly following a path towards creating a synthesis between the scientific and the spiritual” and who told her “these paintings must not be seen for fifty years as no one would understand them.”

Now that af Klint’s work has been exhibited in full, most recently by the Moderna Museet, curators like Iris Müller-Westermann believe, as Kellawy notes, “that art-historical wrangles should not get in the way of work that needs to be seen.” Although af Klint may not have played an integral historical role in the development of abstract painting, her expansive body of work will likely inspire artists, scholars, and esoteric seekers for centuries to come.

 

Learn more about af Klint’s work at Moderna Museet, the Hilma af Klint Foundation website, The Art Story and Dangerous Minds.

By: Josh Jones 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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By now, many people are familiar with the story of Swedish painter and occultist, Hilma af Klint (1862-1944). Subject of several major museum exhibitions—including most-attended-ever exhibits at the Guggenheim, New York and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm—her vibrant, innovative, and highly metaphysical paintings have firmly entered the public consciousness and are finally taking their place in 20th-century art history. Trained as a painter, she became a spiritualist and later received a commission from her spirit guides to complete a series of monumental artworks. In the process, she invented abstract art but was discouraged from continuing and ultimately worked in isolation—never sharing her spiritual works publicly in her lifetime—as result of sharp criticism from her male peers.

The Stunning Viking Runestones Of Scandinavia

The recent discovery of several Viking ship graves in Norway has lifted interest in Viking history to new heights. While there’s no doubting the fascinating discoveries being made, some truly remarkable Viking artifacts exist in plain sight throughout Scandinavia: runestones.

The region’s tradition of carving inscriptions into raised stones as a memorial began as early as the 4th century, but the vast majority of runestones still standing date from the 9th and 10th centuries, the latter years of the Viking Age. Scholars have attempted to translate many of the runic inscriptions, with varying degrees of success.

Rök, Sweden

The runestone of Rök, Sweden, is one of the most popular attractions on Scandinavia’s burgeoning Viking tourist trail. Yet its origin story continues to mystify.

First-time visitors to the runestone outside Rök in a rural part of East Middle Sweden are often left speechless. The imposing five-ton carved stone has an almost alien-like appearance and is unlike any other archaeological find in the world.

Believed to date back to the early 9th century, the stone was raised and carved by a Viking struggling to cope with the death of his son. He channelled his emotions into carving this sprawling text, which consists of more than 700 runes spread across the stone’s five sides.

While several translations have been made, experts struggle to interpret the results. One recent study even claims part of the inscription tells of the community’s fears about a period of extended cold.

A team led by Per Holmberg, a professor of Swedish language at the University of Gothenburg, said that a series of 6th century volcanic eruptions plunged Sweden into a prolonged cold snap, killing as much as half the population. The new study claims that the runestone’s author could have been spooked by a series of events that occurred between the years 775 and 810. During that time, a solar storm, a very cold summer, and a near-total solar eclipse all took place, any of which could have been mistaken as an indicator of another extreme cold spell on its way.

Jelling, Denmark

The Jelling area of Denmark is synonymous with Viking history. The town’s 11th century stone church was built on the site of Harald Bluetooth’s wooden church from the 900s.

Two giant burial mounds provide the backdrop for these runestones, considered to be some of the most famous historical artifacts in Denmark as they contain the oldest written references to the country’s name.

The Jelling stones make up part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such have become one of Denmark’s most popular sights. The bigger stone was raised by Harald Bluetooth to honour his parents and celebrate his conquest of Denmark. The smaller, older stone is aid to have been raised by King Gorm the Old in memory of his wife, Thyra.

Rakkestad, Norway

As with Viking burial ships, runestones are still being discovered to this day across Scandinavia. Very few have been found in Norway, yet in 2018 this remarkable find was made in Rakkestad, only a handful of miles away from the location of the Gjellestad ship.

However, unlike the burial ship and almost all the other runestones in Scandinavia, this one has been found to predate the Viking Age by as much as 400 years. So old is the Proto Norse language of the 35 runes that it took researchers at the University of Oslo to confirm that they were indeed original runes.

Södermanland, Sweden

While Denmark and Norway to have a handful of runestones, the vast majority are located in Sweden. To the west of Swedish capital Stockholm, the Södermanland region alone is home to 450 known runic inscriptions.

Perhaps the most famous is the Stenkvista runestone near Stenkvita church. It is one of several runestones that reference Thor, but this one has a depiction of Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir.

Another famous stone at Skåang is notable for two sets of inscriptions. The first is written with the oldest known runic alphabet and is believed to date to the 6th century. A second inscription was added during the Viking Age.

Elsewhere in the region, a runestone with tales of extensive warfare throughout western Europe stands more than three meters high in the large burial ground at Kungshållet in Kjula.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I was born in the U.K. but moved to Norway in 2011 and haven’t looked back. I run a website and podcast for fellow expats, authored the Moon Norway travel guidebook, help Norwegian companies with their English, and spend my free time touring the country to discover more about the people and places of this unique corner of the world. I write for Forbes with an outsider’s inside perspective on Norway & Scandinavia.

Source: The Stunning Viking Runestones Of Scandinavia

Runes. The Viking world was full of them. In an extract from The Dark Ages: An Age of Light, Waldemar Januszczak explains their importance in the much-misunderstood Viking culture. The complete series is now available on DVD from the ZCZ Films shop: http://www.zczfilms.com/shop/films/th…

 

Carlos Cruz-Diez, the Venezuelan Pioneer of Kinetic Art, Dies in Paris — TIME

(CARACAS, Venezuela) — Carlos Cruz-Diez, a leading Venezuelan artist who won international acclaim for his work with color and the style known as kinetic art, has died in Paris. He was 95. “Your love, your joy, your teachings and your colors, will remain forever in our hearts,” said a family statement posted on Cruz-Diez’s art…

via Carlos Cruz-Diez, the Venezuelan Pioneer of Kinetic Art, Dies in Paris — TIME

Art Is At The Core Of Entrepreneurship, Ignore It At Your Peril

The sculpture "Le Baiser" (The Kiss) by French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The sculpture “Le Baiser” (The Kiss) by French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

As technology moves the world at ever greater speeds and artificial intelligence becomes the electricity of the twenty first century, engineers are revered, and STEM subjects encouraged. At times, this comes at the cost of art and the human element. A computer science graduate is currently guaranteed to find a well-paying job, whereas a liberal arts graduate may find it harder.

Yet the most interesting people I know have diverse tastes and are Renaissance men and women. In the Renaissance, it was a mark of prestige to have an understanding of the arts, and the sciences, to speak several languages and have creative pursuits. As well as beheading his wives and periodically invading France, Henry VIII also wrote sonnets.

The arts, whether visual, theatre or music, give us an understanding of the human condition, which is universal and eternal. While the way we communicate has changed, what we want to say has not. The child of an egotistic parent will recognize King Lear’s selfishness and anyone who has ever been in love will identify with the tenderness of Rodin’s The Kiss.

The end user of every product is human, whether that product is software, a dress or a book. A narrow focus on product or financial metrics, which dismisses the human element, is unlikely to create something lasting.

Noble.AI, a California-based company which makes artificial intelligence to enable faster and cheaper research and development for the likes of Boeing, is predictably full of engineers. Less predictable is the fact that around a quarter of its staff are artists and designers. Dr Matthew Levy, CEO and founder of Noble.AI, says that his emphasis on aesthetics means that the products they make have to be beautiful and pleasing to use, as well as technologically advanced. “I don’t think our products could be successful if we didn’t think about how people would be interacting with them. The people who use our products are human and they have a wide range of interests, so it is important not to have a narrow focus.”

Dr Matthew Levy, CEO and Founder of Noble.AI

Dr Matthew Levy, CEO and Founder of Noble.AI

Noble.AI

Levy says that it takes a conscious effort to bring diverse viewpoints together and avoid the risk of sitting in your own bubble. As recent events have shown us, it is easy to submerge oneself into an echo-chamber of reinforcing beliefs. Levy is inspired by Steve Jobs, who revered artists and put beautiful design at the heart of Apple.

Levy suggests that if you want to be a first-rate engineer, focus on engineering, but if you want to be an entrepreneur, develop your wider interests. “Allow yourself time to dive into that interest. I guarantee there will be connections you’ve never anticipated when you started out on that journey.”

In fact, this is how Levy and I met. We were both at the beginning of our entrepreneurial journeys and were working from Second Home, a workspace known for its creative approach. Spanish architects SelgasCano designed an environment so beautiful and unique, that it inevitably drew companies to whom aesthetics were important. I run a fashion tech company, so this was a simple choice for me, but I was surprised by how much design mattered to my frontier technology innovating neighbors.

Second Home Spitalfields, London

Second Home Spitalfields, London

Iwan Baan

An artistic interest also engages the brain in a way that day to day business does not. Marianne Moore, paints as a balance to running her company. Moore’s consultancy, Justice Studio, advises charities, NGOs and governments on how to bring social equality into their work. She travels the world advising on some of the world’s toughest issues, which is an inevitably stressful job. Moore sees her painting as a counterweight to this work because it is indulgence in beauty for beauty’s sake.

Moore says creating art and creating a company are extensions of the same trait: seeing an idea in your head and then making it come to life. Yet, despite painting since her teens, Moore only recently opened up about her combined life as an artist and an entrepreneur. “People want to put you in a box and if you are straddling different things, they find it hard to define you. Society now tells you to be one thing or the other thing.” Today, Moore says she is a “creatrix of art and companies”. For those unfamiliar with the term creatrix, it is the feminine of creator.

Corset, by Marianne Moore, contemporary artist and entrepreneur

Corset, by Marianne Moore, contemporary artist and entrepreneur

Marianne Moore