Friends of Te Papa were treated to a very special evening on 16 February to view Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings exhibition held at the City Gallery.  Caleb Gordon, Public Programme Specialist, gave a most enjoyable and informative talk on the work of Hilma af Klint.  We all came away with a sense of inspiration and awe at such an amazing woman who was well ahead of her time.  Bold, colourful and symbolic, her paintings are ground breaking.  Af Klint was deeply interested in the natural, scientific and spiritual world; words, letters, colours, shapes and symbols individually often had more than one meaning reflecting her pluralistic world view.  Her abstract paintings were created years before Malevich, Kandinsky and Mondrian.

Gazing at the The Ten Largest series, it is impossible to imagine how Hilma painted these huge canvases (over three metres tall) on the floor of her studio, each one taking about four days to complete.  It is testament to the vision, determination, energy and passion she brought to her work.  This dazzling series symbolises the exploration of the human life cycle, from childhood and youth to adulthood and old age.  The City Gallery is one of the few places in the world where these works can be displayed alongside each other on one straight wall.

It seems unfathomable that in the late 1960s Erik af Klint, her nephew to whom she had left her entire collection, attempted to donate Hilma’s entire body of work to Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, but was rebuffed.  This led him to create a foundation to administer and preserve the collection.  Despite this initial rejection of Hilma’s legacy, the Moderna Museet has since been instrumental in conserving the collection and has recently committed to maintaining her presence in its galleries.

Afterwards, there was a real buzz as we socialised over a delicious selection of canapés and beverages and reflected on how fortunate we were to have had access to such a stunning exhibition.

Liz Medford
Member and Local Gallery Sub-Committee

Feature image: Detail from: Friends’ viewing and floortalk of Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings at City Gallery, 2022, Wellington. Photo by L. Medford.