Hilma af Klint, 'The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, Group IV', 1907.

Hilma af Klint is an exceptional artist. In the various meanings of the term. Her work is not only seminal, anticipating the beginning of abstractionism by several years, but also presents a rare aesthetic quality, combining formal and chromatic subtlety with an intense spirituality. To this is added its unique history. Graduated from the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts (the second in the world to accept female students) in 1887, she was a relatively successful artist, dedicating herself to landscape, botanical drawing and illustrations for books, magazines and newspapers. . She had, moreover, a deep interest in science and religiosity, which ended up leading her little by little to the breath-taking work that can be seen today at the Pinacoteca do Estado.

The exhibition, which remains at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo until mid-July, brings for the first time to Latin America some of the most emblematic series made by Hilma in the first decades of the XNUMXth century and which were hidden from the public for almost a century – first in order of the artist, who so determined in her will, and then by the art system's difficulty in understanding and absorbing her work. After all, it is surprising that a woman, initially imbued with a mission of a spiritual nature, so clearly anticipated research that would come to light at the hands of consecrated masters such as Kandinsky and Mondrian, who were also interested in the metaphysical plane.

At the entrance to the exhibition, the visitor is welcomed by 10 gigantic paintings, almost 3,5 meters high, representing the ten ages of human life, from childhood to old age. The set has an imposing and strong power of seduction, with its chromatic subtleties and very particular organic abstractionism. They were carried out in one breath, over 40 days, in 1907, which gives an average of four days to make each one. The set is part of an extensive research carried out by Hilma following instructions given to her by external entities, who ask her to make a cycle of paintings for a temple. It is, in the words of curator Jochen Volz, “one of the first and most monumental works of abstract art in the Western world”.

The majesty of the “Ten majors”, as they are called, do not overshadow the other groups of works selected in Hilma's vast production. The visitor discovers, room by room, how the work unfolds in different fields of research, from an investigation into the atom, to a sublime representation of the world's religions from small compositional variations from a simple circular structure.
This mystical side, fundamental in his trajectory, took place in a different way over time. From the first mediumistic experiences with a group of four other friends, entitled From Fem (The Five) – represented in the exhibition by a wide range of automatic drawings and writing, a technique that would acquire artistic status only in the 1920s, with surrealist experiments – to later experiences, such as the series “On the observation of flowers and trees”, from 1922 ( an impressive integration between the visible, the energetic and a spiritual order), there is a change of tonic. The voices that used to be external, attributed to “high masters”, gradually become internal.

Specialists attribute this tonic less linked to spiritism and more soulful to Hilma's approach to Rudolf Steiner, founder of anthroposophy. He is the only one to receive authorization to see, in 1908, the works that she had been developing and is delighted with the series "primordial chaos”. And the relationship between them is maintained over time. In the 1920s, after her mother's death, she frequently visited the Goethearum, headquarters of the anthroposophical movement, where she dedicated herself to studying Goethe's theory of colors, reprinted by Steiner. As Volz explains, “If he had shown this in his much more sexist time, it would probably have been declared a clinical case”.

Such amazement at the boldness of his work, which is always intended to be totalizing, seeking the unity of fields as powerful as science, religion and art, is not something exclusive to the early 1987th century. In XNUMX, on the occasion of the abstract art exhibition in Los Angeles in which her work was shown for the first time, a critic even tried to put her back in the secondary – and invisible – space to which women were relegated, inverting in her favor. the speech in favor of equality, by stating that she “would never have received this bloated treatment if it weren't for a woman”.

Despite working intermittently, he left more than 26 handwritten and typewritten pages, in which he clarifies the internal organization of his work, seeks to explain and organize the infinity of symbologies present in his work, formed by a complex intersection between geometric shapes, symbols , letters and colors. And also a set of 1,2 paintings, drawings and watercolors. She died at the age of 82, a victim of a hit-and-run, and her heir, her nephew, respected her budgeted desire to keep her non-figurative works for another 20 years. “There is no doubt that she was absolutely aware of her own time, the vigor of her images and their potential for the future. She was very clear about what she was doing”, explains Volz, noting that even after opening the boxes, it took another two decades for her work to begin to gain visibility. Only in 2013, an itinerant retrospective of her work is held, starting with the Moderna Museet, in Stockholm.

For the São Paulo show, 130 works were chosen, emphasizing the serial structure adopted by the artist, rare in her time. Some of them have never been shown before. According to Volz, the presence of Hilma's work at the Pinacoteca helps to underline the very strong dialogues between her work and Brazilian art, such as a very strong clash between geometric and organic form, the strength of religious syncretism and the idea of ​​universality.

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