This summer, the Tate Modern presents an exploratory show tracing convergences and divergences in the work of Piet Mondrian and Hilma af Klint. Taking the work of these two luminary twentieth century artists in concert, the show draws intriguing connections across phenomenology, experience, and abstraction, exploring how each artist used their craft to push deeper inquiries and explorations of the world they lived in.
Although they never met, af Klint and Mondrian both invented their own languages of abstract art rooted in nature. At the heart of both of their artistic journeys was a shared desire to understand the forces behind life on earth. Taking meticulous studies of natural objects, landscapes and human-built spaces,the artists used these objects as a source of inquiry into methods of order and meaning. Best known for his abstract work, Mondrian in fact began his career – like af Klint – as a landscape painter. Yet an increasingly complex interest abstraction as a mode of both exploration and expression of the world drove the artist towards his well-known grid constructions. Similarly, af Klint’s work would grow increasingly nuanced as she delved deeper into esoteric explorations of the world and the tenets of theosophical inquiry.
To some degree, the show draws a particularly striking and interesting note from the idea that both artist’s expressive, complex hand ultimately found concise, diagrammatic approaches to making work as they grew deeper into their practice, and the works themselves seem to grow increasingly close in technique and approach in many works. Some of the diagrammatic, carefully-constructed circle diagrams from af Klint’s work is increasingly close to the work Mondrian created in Paris after World War I, for instance. While both artists pursued increasingly deep and expressive philosophical ideas as their works evolved in focus and construction, the resulting works feel ever-more connected.
The show closes September 3rd.
– D. Creahan
Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian [Exhibition Site]