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Test Dept to mark centenary of Russian Revolution with ‘Assembly of Disturbance’ festival
09.08.2017
07:53 am
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Test Dept, the industrial group that invented the “Stakhanovite Sound,” will mark the 100th anniversary of October 1917 with a festival at London’s Red Gallery. Along with the live premiere of material from Test Dept’s new album Disturbance, the lineup includes live performances by Puce Mary, Hannah Sawtell, Kris Canavan, Disinformation, Prolekult, and Fuckhead, and DJ sets by Trevor Jackson and Nina. There will also be installations, film screenings, talks, and an exhibition of Test Dept artifacts called Culture Is Not A Luxury!

The only industrial outfit explicitly committed to socialism—at least, none of the others worked with the South Wales Striking Miners Choir or wrote about Comrade Enver Hoxha—Test Dept promises to bring historical perspective to the nightmare we are living through. From the press release:

[T]he festival explores how one hundred years on from the Russian Revolution, which unleashed radical artistic forces that sought to build an idealistic new society, the current socio-political climate is also engendering a need for a profound shift in governance. As such, Assembly of Disturbance invites you to join an assemblage of artists to consider the prevalent and pressing intersection of art and activism, challenging and disrupting the current state of affairs in Britain, and beyond.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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09.08.2017
07:53 am
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Someday is Now: The trailblazing political pop art of Sister Corita
09.06.2017
01:17 pm
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For those of us who worship at the altar of art and creativity, the career of Sister Corita serves as something like a proof that exciting and bracing art can come from any source. Another way of stating this is that if Sister Corita had never existed, the art-heads of the 1960s might have been obliged to invent her. Sister Corita was a peace activist, a nun, and a pop artist of considerable stature—all at the same time.

The woman who would later become known as Sister Corita was born Frances Kent in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1918, which incidentally means that she was 45 years old on the day that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed. Her large family moved to Los Angeles when she was young, where she would find educational mentors in a Catholic community of liberal nuns, namely the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart Order. They encouraged her to pursue art. In the 1950s she came upon an old silk screen at the art department of Immaculate Heart College and the wife of a Mexican silk-screen practitioner taught her how to clean and use it.

Her career can be said to have begun then; despite impressive productivity, however, it took about a decade for her work, which incorporated textual elements from the very start, to come into full maturity. The debt that Sister Corita owes artists like Andy Warhol and Peter Blake is evident everywhere, but it should be emphasized that the work of those two men lacked moral and spirital components that came to Sister Corita quite easily. When she zooms in on a package of Wonder Bread with emphasis on the words “Enriched Bread,” it’s almost impossible not to think of Jesus Christ. Warhol’s work has a moral element, for sure, but he wouldn’t have been as likely to meditate on the words wonder, enriched, and bread in the same way. (Warhol was only interested in one kind of “bread”: money!)

In 1967 she said, “I started early putting words into my prints, and the words just got bigger and bigger.” That year the Morris Gallery in New York hosted a show dedicated to her prints. By this time she was a “card-carrying” member of the peace movement; she was quoted as saying, “I’m not brave enough not to pay my income tax and risk going to jail, but I can say rather freely what I want to say in my art.”

After a lifetime of association with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she resigned from the order in 1968, in part because of the unusual demands her sudden celebrity had brought. It’s fascinating to watch her work get progressively darker through the 1965-1970 period. I marvel at the sheer balls it would take to put together a red, white, and blue canvas with the words assassination and violence prominently represented and call it American Sampler—I just know I don’t have them!

For a good overview of her work, by all means do consult Come Alive! The Spirited Art of Sister Corita by Julie Ault. The Corita Art Center has a terrific collection of her images as well.
 

For Eleanor, 1964
 

Mary Does Laugh, 1964
 
Much more after the jump…...
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.06.2017
01:17 pm
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These amazing hand-painted Ghanaian horror movie posters are often better than the films!
09.06.2017
10:44 am
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Perhaps there should be a warning. Maybe something like: “These Ghanaian movie posters may have no relationship to the actual film you are about to see.” But that kinda ruins what these artists are trying to achieve. Their remit was simple: Get as many people to come and see this film no matter what—so paint lots of blood and guts and monsters and big, big, huge breasts. Anything. Just so long as it gets some butts on seats and some moolah in the box office coffers.

The Ghanaian artists who created these posters probably didn’t make much money for their efforts. They probably could earn far more painting walls or street signs or putting down road markings. Each poster could take up to three days to create depending on the subject matter and what the artist could find out about the movie. Their one big advantage was that they could paint whatever they liked so long as it created interest. This inevitably led to a few well-worn tropes: snake women, skeletons, zombies, witchcraft, and even the occasional giant fish—as seen in a few James Bond posters. Some of these efforts are far better than the films they advertised—Van Helsing, for example.

The so-called “Golden Age” of Ghanaian movie posters is cited as the 1980s—1990s, when the boom in VHS players meant films could be screened in the smallest of venues, Most of the posters from this era were painted on grain sacks or just large pieces of cloth. These now fetch around a thousand bucks a pop at the more fashionable L.A. art galleries—considerably more than the few cedis the artist originally made.
 
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More handmade Ghanaian movie posters, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.06.2017
10:44 am
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Sex and Death, Beauty and Decay: The dark art of Vania Zouravliov
09.06.2017
09:34 am
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We’re leaving Beardsley country. Taking the old dirt road off Harry Clarke county, on thru the inky backwoods and the old lost village long grown green and rotten with tree and weed, towards a place called Vania Zouravliov. The sky’s dark, and there’s movement among the trees that grow too close together to give any idea what that movement might be other than it’s something watching, something waiting. And you know pretty soon you’re going be meeting this something one way or another and the thought of it sends a cold ripple of excitement through your backbone as you push on ahead wanting to get there faster.

That’s kinda like the feeling I get when I look at the artwork of Vania Zouravliov.

Zouravliov is a Russian graphic artist based in London who draws sensuous, intricate pictures of beauty, death, sex, and decay. Born into an artistic family (his mother was an art teacher), Zouravliov was a child prodigy whose earliest works gained him considerable praise and some notoriety—“famous communist artists, godfathers of social realism, told him that his work was from the Devil.” He was drawing “evil hammerhead people” at the age of four, which he has said proves that “Contrary to what most adults would like to believe, a child’s mind can be a very strange and disturbing place.”

By thirteen, Zouravliov was exhibiting his work in Moscow in 1994 and then internationally. He began to travel and later attended art college in Edinburgh where he started his career in earnest producing work for the Scotsman newspaper and then for magazines and comics. He moved to London where he is currently based.

In an interview with Awk Online Gallery, Zouravilov said he found his inspiration everywhere:

[F]rom popular culture to classical art.I get inspired by fashion magazines, books, films, old photographs, music, various cultures, and religions. I think my overall melancholic view on life is represented in my work.

When I was a child I used to draw animals and birds all the time and now I draw women. I can’t think of anything more interesting or beautiful at this point in my life. I use female characters in my work to say or explain things about myself.

He cites his favorite artists as Ingres, Gustav Dore, Grunewald, Von Bayros, Bakst, Utamar, and Belgian symbolist Fernand Khnopff—whose paintings have an “other-worldly feel to them.”

That other-worldly feel is also there in Zouravliov’s work which is rich, beautiful, and utterly personal. There’s a quote from Zouravliov that’s been bandied about the Internet for a long time which gives his answer to the question “What’s the one thing that gives you the inspiration to keep making art?”

A strong belief that creativity is the only relative freedom we have in this world.

It’s a good answer which I hope is true. See more of Vania Zouravliov’s work here and here.
 
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See more of Vania Zouravliov’s art, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.06.2017
09:34 am
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Your worst nightmares: The macabre and disturbing sculptures of Emil Melmoth (NSFW)
09.05.2017
09:37 am
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Imagine someone sneaked into your bedroom when you were asleep, peeled back your eyelids and scooped out your very worst nightmares then turned them all into sculptures.

Well, that’s kinda like what Mexican artist Emil Melmoth has achieved with his gruesome, morbid, yet strangely compelling sculptures of deformed creatures and unnamed things that dwell in the night—he has made the terrors of darkness visible.

Melmoth takes his inspiration from religious iconography, medical anatomy, death culture, the circus, the freak show, and the downright macabre. His sculptures may look like expensive props for a deeply disturbing horror movie but they are intended to engage the viewer in some serious thinking. Fusing wax, ceramics, resin, nails, and bone, Melmoth creates meditations on the human condition that juxtapose “ideas of religious immortality and paradise with the reality of bodily imperfection, dissection, and truths of scientific knowledge.”

[His] wax, anatomical models revel in a dark and surreal environment, and where his depraved sculptures live in affliction: fragile beings in an eternally harrowing state of mind. Melmoth projects the sublime and ethereal concepts of death onto his creations, portraying pessimism, nihilism, existentialism, the question of transcendence beyond death, mental instability, and self-destruction, all ideas represented in his invigorating constructs.

An exhibition of his work is currently on show at the Last Rites Gallery (until September 9th) but if you can’t make that then you can follow Emil Melmoth on Instagram and Facebook.
 
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See more of Emil Melmoth’s nightmarish sculptures, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.05.2017
09:37 am
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Giant skull chair with movable jaw
09.05.2017
09:28 am
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Ever wanted a giant skull chair to relax in? Well, have I got just the giant skull chair for you. Chicsin Design on Etsy makes the skull chair for $450 with free shipping worldwide. I’ve never ordered from this shop before, so I can’t vouch for the quality of their merch. I do, however, totally dig it.

According to the listing, it “will require assembling before use.” I hope it’s not complicated. You may want to contact Chicsin Design before purchasing to find out. I mean if IKEA can end marriages, what damage might a difficult to assemble giant skull chair cause?


 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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09.05.2017
09:28 am
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Russell MacEwan’s evocative portraits of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis
08.31.2017
02:20 pm
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Russell MacEwan was a member of the Canadian House of Commons from the late 1950s to the early 1970s before passing away in 2008.

Actually, that is not the Russell MacEwan we’re interested in today. That Russell MacEwan is a Scottish artist who is neither a politician nor dead and has produced a great deal of high-quality work of sci-fi subjects as well as portraits of postpunk and experimental music heroes.

MacEwan is an extraordinarily skilled draftsman, as you can see for yourself, who is currently Professor Emeritus at the City of Glasgow College. Virtually all of his output is black-and white, and he works in oils, charcoal, and pencils—his pencil drawings often resemble sketches that on other days might get “filled out” to form a painting, but he just leaves it as is for the viewer to contemplate.

The artist has mentioned that Joy Division is his favorite musical subject as well as the band he’d most like to be compared to, but he also has an abiding interest in the world of Coil, particularly How to Destroy Angels, the band’s first release from 1984. We’ve selected a few of the images of Curtis (whatever was available online, in fact) for your perusal.

MacEwan has an abiding interest in World War I topics and often draws inspiration from Hollywood and comic books, as his images of Logan, Clint Eastwood, and Catwoman indicate.

MacEwan has a book out called Black Sun: Art of Russell MacEwan and you can see much more of his portfolio here.
 

 

 
Much more after the jump…....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.31.2017
02:20 pm
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Fantastic Beasts: Fabulous illustrations from classic Persian book of fables
08.31.2017
09:47 am
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Once upon a time, in the land of Persia, there lived a very wise old King called Anushirvan who had heard of an ancient book of tales told by animals and reptiles and the birds of the air. The King he decided he would very much like to read this book as he had read all of the other books in his library and he desperately wanted something new to read at bedtime so he could completely relax after his wearisome day ruling and begetting stuff and doing kingly things. The King asked his doctor, Burzuyah, who was the smartest man he knew, to go off in search of this book and bring it back to him. One bright early morning before the birds started singing, Burzuyah left the King’s palace and went off in search of this fantastic book of tales.

The book is called Anvār-i Suhaylī or Lights of Canopus and that is how our story begins. It sets the frame within which we are told a series of inter-related fables mostly involving animals that are intended to offer good counsel to the reader.

For example, one story (which sounds a bit like The Gruffalo) tells of a big, greedy, ferocious lion and a smart, little hare. When the lion meets the hare, he asks him why he is so late as he was due to be the lion’s dinner hours ago. The hare is most apologetic and tells the lion he is ever so sorry for being late but an even bigger, greedier, far more ferocious lion had stopped him on his way and tried to eat him. Thankfully, the hare escaped otherwise he would never have been in time for his dinner appointment. The lion thinks he’s got a rival so asks the hare to lead him to this other lion. The hare does so, taking the lion to the still of a pond where he points to the lion’s reflection on the surface of the water. The lion is so enraged by the look of this other ferocious beast that he jumps straight into the water and drowns.

Another tale recounts how a cat is caught in the net of a hunter’s trap. The rat the cat had been chasing is happy to see his old adversary caught. But then the rat realizes that without the cat’s protection, he is vulnerable to attack from some of the cat’s other prey like the owl and the weasel. Knowing the cat is trapped, the owl circles the sky looking for the rat to feast on. While the weasel sneaks behind a tree waiting for the rat to return home, so he can have him for his dinner. The rat decides it would be best to free the cat and begins to gnaw through the ropes that hold him. All the while, the rat implores the cat not to eat when he is free. The cat agrees but somehow his words never quite reassure the rat. So the rat decides to set the cat free at the very last moment when the hunter returns. The hunter returns. The owl flies away. The weasel runs home. The rat bites through the last rope. The cat flees from the trap and hides up a tree. And the rat goes back to his home knowing he is safe once again.

You get the drift.

And so the stories go with one tale setting up the next and so on. The idea is that the reader will learn something from these stories about human nature and perhaps about themselves…
 
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More fabulous illustrations, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.31.2017
09:47 am
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Anton LaVey, Son of Satan & Vampirella make for fantastically weird ‘Illegal Mego’ action figures
08.30.2017
12:17 pm
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One of Todd Waters’ customized Anton LaVey “Illegal Mego” action figures.
 
Michigan native Todd Waters started collecting action figures made by toy giant Mego in the 1970s when he was just a toddler and simply never stopped. He and his brother were so obsessed with the action figures put out by Mego that they started tricking out their own characters together as kids. In a 2007 interview Waters recalled that his very first custom figure was Spider-Man which he customized with ripped clothing and a removable mask which he still owns.

Eventually, Waters learned to sew which allowed him to make more creative costumes for his action figures, which he also hand-paints. After clicking through Waters’ Flickr, I was delighted to discover the wide variety of action figures he has made that include some cool, fringe characters such as two different versions of Anton LaVey, the supernatural “Brother Voodoo” from Marvel Comics, and his self-proclaimed favorite, a customized “Dr. Zachary Smith” as played by actor Jonathan Harris in the vintage television series, Lost in Space. As I’m sure you may be wondering, yes, Waters does occasionally sell his figures—but only does so to raise the funds to create more of his wacky custom treasures. If you’re interested in trying to acquire one of Waters’ unique figures, he can be contacted via his Flickr page.
 

“Man-Thing” figure. “Man-Thing” made his first appearance in the Marvel comic ‘Savage Tales’ in 1971.
 

“The Son of Satan” figure. “The Son of Satan” made his debut in 1973 in ‘Ghost Rider’ #1.
 
More Mego madness after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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08.30.2017
12:17 pm
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Meet the Swedish mystic who was the first Abstract artist
08.30.2017
10:27 am
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The artist and mystic Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) never described the 193 paintings she produced between 1906-15 as “Abstract art.” Instead, af Klint thought of these paintings as diagrammatic illustrations inspired by conversations she (and her friends) conducted with the spirit world from the late 1890s on.

That af Klint did not call her work “Abstract art” is enough for some art historians to (foolishly) discount her art as the work of the first Abstract artist. In fact af Klint was painting her Abstract pictures long before Wassily Kandinsky made his progression from landscapes to abstraction sometime around 1910, or Robert Delaunay dropped Neo-Impressionism for Orphism and then moseyed along into Abstract art just a year or two later. But these men were members of voluble artistic groups and Kandinsky was a lawyer who knew the importance of self-promotion. Unlike af Klint who worked alone, in seclusion, and stipulated that her artwork was not to be exhibited until twenty years after her death. Af Klint died in 1944. In fact, it took forty-two years for her work to be seen by the public as part of an exhibition called The Spiritual in Art in Los Angeles, 1986.

And there’s the issue. The word “spiritual.” In a secular world where anything with a whiff of bells and candles is considered irrelevant, contemptible, and generally unimportant, it has been difficult for af Klint to be seen as anything other than an outsider artist or a footnote to the boys who have taken all the credit. Of course, a large part of the blame for this must rest with af Klint herself and her own prohibition on exhibiting her work. It’s very unfortunate, for this self-imposed ban meant that although af Klint may have been (I’ll say it again) the very first Abstract artist, her failure to share her work or exhibit it widely meant she had no or very limited influence through her artistic endeavors.

But now that af Klint has been rediscovered, it’s probably the right time to rip up the old art history narrative about Kandinsky and Delaunay and all the other boys and start all over again with af Klint at the top of that Abstract tree.

Hilma af Klint was born in Sweden in 1862 into a naval family. Her father was an admiral with a great interest in mathematics, who could play a damn fine tune on the violin. Her family were Protestant Christians but took considerable interest in the rapid advances made by science into the world—from medicine and x-rays to the theory of evolution. Unlike today, religious belief and scientific investigation were not mutually exclusive. In the same way, there was (at the time) a scientific interest in the spiritual.

Af Klint was passionate about mathematics, botany, and art. Some of her earliest paintings were detailed examinations of plants. Her father had little understanding of his daughter’s passion for art and would ruefully shake his head when she enthused about painting. Af Klint studied portraiture and landscape at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm 1882-87, graduating with honors. Her paintings are exceedingly good and technically very fine but not extraordinary or even offering much of a hint of what was to come.

The turning point for this great change roughly stemmed from the death of her younger sister. After her sister’s death in 1880, af Klint joined a group of women known who shared an interest in the spiritual, in particular, the occult theories and Theosophical ideas of Madame Blavatsky who promoted a unity of the scientific and the spiritual. These women became known as “The Five.” They held séances together with af Klint often acting as the medium. The group made contact with spirit entities which they called the “High Masters.” Under their guidance, these women started producing works created by automatic writing and automatic painting—this was almost four decades before the Surrealists laid claim to inventing such techniques.

It was through her contact with these High Masters that af Klint began her series of Abstract paintings in 1906. These pictures, she claimed, were intended to represent “the path towards the reconciliation of spirituality with the material world, along with other dualities: faith and science, men and women, good and evil.”

Af Klint detailed her conversations with these spirits including one with a spirit called Gregor who told her:

All the knowledge that is not of the senses, not of the intellect, not of the heart but is the property that exclusively belongs to the deepest aspect of your being […] the knowledge of your spirit.

In 1906, af Klint began painting the images these spirits instructed her to set down. Her first was the painting Ur-Chaos which was created under the direction of the High Master Amaliel, as af Klint wrote in her notebooks:

Amaliel sign a draft, then let H paint. The idea is to produce a nucleus from which the evolution is based in rain and storm, lightning and storms. Then come leaden clouds above.

Between 1906 and 1915, af Klint produced a total of 193 paintings and an outpouring of thousands of words describing her conversations with the High Masters and the meaning of her paintings. Her work depicted the symmetrical duality of existence like male/female, material/spiritual, and good/evil. Blue represented the feminine. Yellow the masculine. Pink signified physical love. Red denoted spiritual love. Green represented harmony. Spirals signified evolution. Marks that looked like a “U” stood for the spiritual world. While waves or a “W” the material world. Circles or discs meant unity. Af Klint believed she was creating a new visual language, a new way of painting, that brought the spiritual and scientific together.

These paintings were often over ten feet in height. Af Klint stood around five feet. She painted her pictures on the floor—the occasional footprint can be seen smudged on the canvas. Af Klint worked like someone possessed. She believed her work was intended to establish a “Temple.” What this temple was or what it signified she was never exactly quite sure. All af Klint knew was that she was being guided by spirits:

The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless, I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.

All through this, af Klint continued her own rigorous investigation into new scientific and esoteric ideas. This brought her to the work of Rudolf Steiner who was similarly following a path towards creating a synthesis between the scientific and the spiritual. When af Klint showed her paintings to the great esoteric, Steiner was shocked and told her these paintings must not be seen for fifty years as no one would understand them.

Steiner’s response devastated af Klint and she stopped painting for four years. Af Klint spent her time tending to her blind, dying mother. She then returned to painting but kept herself and more importantly her work removed from the world. After her death in 1944, the rented barn in which she kept her studio was to be burnt by the landlord farmer. A relative quickly decanted all of af Klint’s paintings and notebooks into wooden crates and stored them in a tin-roofed attic for the next thirty years.

In 1970, af Klint’s paintings were offered to the Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art) in Stockholm which was surprisingly (some might say foolishly) knocked back. Thankfully, through the perseverance of her family and the art historian Åke Fant, af Klint’s work was eventually exhibited in the 1980s. In total, Hilma af Klint painted over 1,200 abstract paintings and wrote some 23,000 words, all of which are now owned and managed by the Hilma af Klint Foundation.
 
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‘The Ten Largest #3’ (1907).
 
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‘The Ten Largest #4’ (1907).
 
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‘The Ten Largest #7.’ (1907).
 
More Abstract art from Hilma af Klint, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.30.2017
10:27 am
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