About how art is the spirit’s means of embodying matter
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What is spirituality guys? Is it something intimate or public? Material or immaterial? Is it teaching or example?
I think it’s time to end it here, this incessant search for the spiritual that’s been very fashionable since the 60’s until today, proposing 100 plus 1 ways to be revolutionary and mystical. We’ve heard so many tales from the Bible, the Koran, Buddha, Krishna, Tarot, Angels and Archangels, Osho and fortune cookies. And now I really think it’s time to end it.
I say this because maybe I’ve really found my Guru, a person who has never defined herself as such nor wanted to emerge with teachings or motivational phrases, but patiently worked, proliferated and experimented, and waited for the right time to be understood and come out. And I thank her, because perhaps she represents today, the most mature example of spirituality that I have ever met along my path.
The woman who shocked the history of art
Hilma af Klint. I would like to add nothing more to the definition of spiritual than her story and her images.
She is the mother-woman in a world of men, she is humility in a world of appearances, she is nature finding space among artifice, she is decomposition where everyone just wants to define themselves, she is experimentation and the question mark where everyone claims to give answers… and I don’t think there is a better approach to spirituality (and life) today.
Hilma af Klint remained incognito for 44 years, that is from the day of her death to the day of her resurrection in 1986, when for the first time her works were exhibited at the County Museum of Los Angeles and it became clear to everyone that the history of art had to be rewritten. Without any fuss or malice and without even being alive, here is a woman, after having lived her entire life in almost anonymity, blows the record of “First Abstract Painter” to Kandisky and arrives to create a visual and graphic approach, first in respect to an entire artistic movement, famous, of men.
The soul of abstract art
Abstract art is Hilma’s soul, or rather, Hilma is the soul of abstract art, or rather, she was that new silent creative gesture, which no one could see at the time, but which certainly entered into that great lake that is the collective unconscious, said among us spiritualists, and re-emerged further on, in the works of Modrian, Albers, Klee, Kandisky.
In short, as often happens to women, to have the idea but not the means; and as happens to that great tree that falls in a remote forest without anyone hearing the roar.
But this dosen’t matters today, and it didn’t matter to the first abstract painter in history either, because she was indeed a spiritual person. Those who know the art of the spirit don’t mind making noise, generating gossip, coming out of the closet. She has had her great recognition, without having to fight, or chase the dream of a great career, or excel over others or decree the birth of a movement: Hilma painted the invisible, what we cannot see but exists, as if she had created it, and perhaps this is still a better definition of her “style” than that of abstract art.
Drawing maps of the cosmos
Her shapes and figures are not gestures or random chromatic choices, but the representation of anthropophysical and theosophical concepts and spiritual meditative sessions. In his visual imagery we find endless references to natural forms such as the double helix chain of DNA, petals and leaves, sun and moon, the egg (absolutely typical symbol in Dali many years later), the cell and the clitoris (or something very similar to that representation that I often see among feminists today to indicate the pleasure zones). And then again the colors of the light spectrum (or chackra), the symbol of the pyramid and the spiral that returns, mandalas and lotus flowers, elliptical orbits of planets or atoms, that figure eight symbol of the infinite that we find in modern tattoos and also in the logo of a new important multinational company; and again and again duality: in contrasts, in full and empty spaces, in the intersections between figures. In short, just as one of the laws of Metaphysics states “As above, so below/as above so below” in the same way Klint’s hand is describing on paper the constellations of the cosmos, the movements of the galaxy, the maps of existence.
He doesn’t use words but signs, gestures to narrate the spiritual; he reinterprets the teachings of others but doesn’t fill his mouth with them. Instead, he takes them and translates them with the forms of the world, interprets them through his glossy, delicate, ancient colors. She didn’t have to make big rallies in front of the crowd, nor write treatises; she only followed the advice that one of her mentors, Rudolf Steiner, had given her. She waited, remaining aloof on her island (Munsö Island), until the world was ready to receive her, to understand the information she was transmitting.
The medium of the spirit
Hilma af Klint in fact defines herself as a medium and this is exactly what spirituality embodies: to be a medium of the spirit, passing through us to get where it needs to go. We are not the spirit, nor the wisdom, nor the answers, and that is why true mystics are unassailable and scary to many: because they are detached from their teachings, which do not belong to them, but belong to the divine. Like loudspeakers on earth, they find the means that belongs to them to reach others.
Hilma af Klint’s loudspeaker is, of course, painting. The contents of her images come from science, which at the beginning of the 1900s was penetrating more and more into the invisible through the theories of quantum mechanics, Freud and Einstein, but also from mystical experiences generated in the company of 4 other women in the group “The Five”, with whom she meditates weekly and does spiritual exercises, coming into contact with celestial energies that guide her in her creations. She sees spirituality as a gesture that fits perfectly into everyday life, in the real actions that human can do; in painting, but certainly also in many other actions of life, she feels guided by a higher consciousness.
To have something divine pass through the human gesture is an art in itself, and I believe that she is the perfect example of the spiritual power that the creative act has.
Hilma af Klint, my favorite Guru
Finally, what really made me become a follower of Klint is her consistency in translating the spiritual but at the same time being it, embodying it I would say. At her death all his pictorial legacy goes to his nephew, but under two precise and irrevocable conditions. The first is that he must wait 20 years after her death before exhibiting them in a museum, and here we can already understand the asceticism she feels towards her art.
The second condition makes me almost move, because it is really rare to find someone who professes spirituality without seeking, at least in part, a material return. Yet Hilma af Klint implemented a perfect strategy: her mastery of painting allowed her to make a living by selling portraits and realistic paintings of a naturalistic nature, such as botanical illustrations and landscapes. All of her abstract works, born instead from her spiritual practices, could not be sold. Both before and today, therefore, in Hilma af Klint’s conception, economy and spirituality have traveled on two separate tracks. And it is very rare to encounter this feature in modern forms of spirituality, whether it is the Catholic church or the new modern shamans.
With this, I don’t mean to criticize those who make a job out of their beliefs, or those who, dedicating time and study to mystical practices, demand the proper reward for service.
However, I think that if all the voices of the new masters narrate the birth of a new era, of new tools and new paradigms, then the old ones (such as capitalist practices) must disappear from the context (spiritually, I mean), and that if you really feel a mission or a call to the invisible power of energies, they must become exercises in daily life, free practices towards the people who cross your path. I am referring to the possibility of listening, of welcoming, of paying attention, of sharing, of dedicating time to the other, to the unknown, to the different, and of reasoning not only in terms of personal return (be it monetary or identity). So, it’s about dropping the masks and stand-ins, getting off any podium and maybe trying to be yourself, in the most spontaneous and fragile way possible, because only in this way you can get in touch with the energies of what you see and all the equally invisible that we have around us…
After all, as happened to Hilma af Klint, in the temple of spirituality, it is often the least effort that gives the greatest yield.