Emma Kunz – Visionary Drawings

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The Serpentine gallery in Hyde park is currently showing 40 rarely seen drawings of visionary artist, healer and researcher Emma Kunz (1892–1963).

This is an important exhibition because it showcases the work of one of the pioneers of abstract art, providing insight into extraordinary, and largely unacknowledged creative innovations that were occurring in the middle of the nineteenth century.

In 1906, Hilma Af Klint from Sweden verifiably created her first abstract painting – at least four years before the ‘founding fathers’ of modern painting  (such as Wassily Kandinsky.)  Georgiana Houghton in England, and Emma Kunz in Switzerland were also developing their own abstract visual language, highly charged with meaning. All three women strove to make manifest immaterial messages from higher, spiritual realms. As Althaus et al state in their introduction to the new publication: World Receivers:  “the analysis of their spectacular work, challenges us to question previously binding narratives about the genesis of abstract art in the modern era.”

 

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Emma Kunz in Waldstadt

Emma Kunz used radiesthesia as a drawing technique, where she would pose a question to her divining pendulum and discover the answer within the geometric drawing she made from recording the pendulum’s swings, starts and stops onto graph paper. She was known to work continuously on each drawing for periods that could stretch over twenty-four hours.Kunz sought to gain a greater understanding of nature and the world through these drawings, and her questions to the pendulum ranged from the political to the philosophical and personal.

Emma Kunz is the only one of the three artists mentioned above who did not receive any artist training. It was not until the age of forty-six that she began to produce large scale drawings on almost square-cut graph paper. She drew to explore the laws and forces of nature’s regularities. The starting point was her own body, as well as her concentrated attention to nature. She approached her healing practice in the same way. By completely surrendering herself to the energy flows, she directed the damaging forces onto herself, and transformed these into healing energies. There are astonishing reports of her healing successes. (World Receivers).

She used the pendulum as a stimulant. She often recounted that ordered systems of points had appeared before her inner eye. In tireless work, she expanded on a basic pattern, enriching it, consulting the pendulum and inner visions. At times it seemed as if the picture was completing itself outside of her own consciousness, as if her hands were being guided. When a work was finished, the painter stood in front of it filled with wonder and described what had been found – returning from distant depths, curiously astonished. That interaction between consciousness, conscious behaviour, and almost unconscious listening to the primal roots of existence (Muttergrunden), which is only found among genuine artists. (Henry Widmer: in Du Die Zeitschrift der Kultur)

 

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Close Your Eyes and Sing

Our workshop ‘Close Your Eyes and Sing: Expressive Painting,’ for the community arts festival, Made in Roath was a great success. More than fifty abstract works of art were created by individuals using the backs of old carpet tiles, and Picasso’s advice that ‘to draw you must close your eyes and sing’.

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Our first participants were good on the eyes closed part, but struggled to think of song lyrics, and didn’t seem keen on just humming or la la-ing, despite much encouragement! We weren’t too strict about following the rules, and by Sunday most people were painting with eyes wide open, which produced slightly different, more controlled work, but overall there was no worrying about not being able to paint or draw, as everyone was willing to have a go at manipulating the paint.

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I loved how the works were all so wildly different: even though the only materials were basic poster paints in primary colours, there was a surprising range of tones and textures and some wonderful mark making and use of negative space.

Participants working on their tiles.

 

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A few people came back the next day for a second go, or to tell us how much they enjoyed it. As it was such beautiful weather, it was possible to dry the paintings in the sun so that participants were able to collect their work later in the weekend.