It is highly likely that you have never heard of the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint. It is interesting to see how artists of the same generation can develop in different ways. Hilma af Klint is a contemporary of Picasso, which I guess is the reason for the Picasso Museum in Malaga to hold an exhibition of over 200 works of her work for the first time in Spain, following exhibitions at museums such as Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. While today, the works do not perhaps appear innovative, it is astonishing to realise that these works were created a century ago, in the first decades of the 20th century, before well-known abstract artists such as Kandinsky; they have resonance through to the 1960′s.
Hilma af Klint started out with traditional representational art, but she became more interested in the link between the temporal and spiritual worlds and famously became involved with mediums and other spiritual guidance to guide her work. At that time there were also new inventions such as x-rays which perhaps challenged the traditional view of the human body. Most of the works in the exhibition were never exhibited during her lifetime as she stipulated in her will that they should not be shown publicly until 20 years after her death, which was in 1944. As the exhibition’s curator, Iris Müller-Westermann, says: “it could be said that over a hundred years ago, Hilma af Klint painted for the future. And the future is now”. Her work is unique and in many ways ahead of her contemporaries, but never received the recognition it perhaps deserved, in part because of her own reticence about the public understanding of her paintings.
What is also interesting is that, although she lived through the horrors of two world wars, her work does not reflect on this in any way, which is a little surprising given her spiritual influences; one would have expected some dark moments to appear, as is often the case with other artists. Perhaps Sweden’s neutrality meant that artists were not connected with the emotional influence of these events.