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Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings

  • Art, Paintings
  • Recommended
A gallery view of Hilma af Klint’s beautiful abstract series 'The Ten Largest'
Photograph: David Heald, installation view at Guggenheim Museum | ‘The Ten Largest’, 1907, Hilma af Klint

Time Out Says

This Art Gallery of NSW show is the first time her remarkable work has been shown in the Asia-Pacific region

UPDATE: This exhibition will not re-open at Art Gallery NSW and can only be viewed online.

It was pure joy when Sydneysiders got to see the beautiful colours of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint’s beautiful abstracts light up the Art Gallery of New South Wales this winter. And then a total bummer when they had to close the doors of Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings less than a month later.

The good news is, it’s back on, only this time you can visit without leaving the house, and it’s totally free. They’ve whipped up a snazzy YouTube video walkthrough to ensure that the gorgeous exhibition reaches even further than before while keeping us all safe and happy.  

The major survey of af Klint’s pioneering work recognises a game-changing talent who drew on popular spiritualist practices to create large-scale works of a kind that hadn’t been seen before. She believed that her paintings contained messages for humanity, communicated to her through visions, and founded a spiritual group named The Five with four like-minded women who explored esoteric texts and conducted séances.

Born in Stockholm in 1862, she was way before her time, and never received the credit she so clearly deserved before dying in a tragic accident at 82, in the autumn of 1944. That's partly because she left a note asking for them to be concealed for at least 20 years. She is behind more than 1300 works which were hidden away in storage for decades until their rediscovery caused a sensation, leading to a 2019 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum that smashed the New York institution’s attendance records. This Sydney outing features over 100 works, as curated by the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne’s Sue in collaboration with Art Gallery of NSW senior curator of modern and contemporary international art Nicholas Chambers.

Her series ‘The Ten Largest’ (1907) explores the four stages of human development through ten incredible works that harness a glorious arrangement of shapes and bright-hued motifs. You’ll also be able to see rare sightings of her early botanical watercolours, late-career works many of which have never been displayed in public before, and notebooks that offer a fascinating insight into her influences and processes.

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand says it’s 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. “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.”

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Written by
Stephen A Russell


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