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.”
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)
On the after-school Storytelling and Art course at Llanover Hall, the children decided to create a theatre out of cardboard. As our theme for that week was Sci-fi, everyone made alien characters to star in the show. On the first week, the parents got a preview of act one, with one boy being narrator, others changing the set and moving the characters.
Over the weeks, Future Class Theatre continued to develop. Scenery and back drops were painted. A script with four scenes was written. Characters were made out of air-drying clay and painted. And finally, a mini animation of the story to be edited.
sculpting aliens out of clay
painting the theatre
Completion of another Creative Schools project in a primary school at St. Gabriel and St Raphael R.C. Primary School, Tonypandy. Working with fellow artist Angharad Evans, the aim was to reconnect the children with the natural environment, while enhancing literacy skills, and to create a sensory portal in a small allocated space in the school yard that would be used for story telling.
Four stories were chosen, acted out and used as inspiration for artwork: The Rainbow Snake from Australia, The Kingdom Under the Sea from Japan, The Lady of the Lake, and Picton and the Magic Staff, based on stories from Wales. The children also created a story from their experiences on trips we arranged to Barry Sidings and the Bushcraft centre in Merthyr.
Angharad showed the children how to weave the willow into a den, and I helped them to print flags and banners to represent aspects of the four stories and the four elements: earth, air, fire and water.
The Magic Portal, with prints based on the stories
Storytelling in the Portal
Inspired by the ancient Japanese art of Kintsukuroi, participants of the creative wellbeing groups worked with the metaphor that wounds and imperfections make us stronger: we become more beautiful for having been broken.
Clay vessels with cracks to be filled with gold
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen, from Anthem
As part of the Lead Creative Schools scheme – a joint Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government initiative – Year 3 children at Beaufort Hill Primary School in Ebbw Vale have been collaborating on a storytelling project. They have brought together a small group of creative practitioners to help them create their own stories based on The Greedy Zebra and The Crafty Chameleon by Mylene Hadithi, making masks, creating performances and dance. I have helped them to create four banners of their stories using a combination of cyanotype and monoprint.
For the first workshop, I asked the children to draw their impression of the stories onto acetate. I then printed the drawings onto the material back at the workshop. For the second workshop, the children created borders around the prints using a selection of leaves to print impressions in different colours onto a yellow background.
I was impressed how quickly the children picked up the stages of the printmaking: squeezing and rolling out the inks, placing their leaf carefully onto the inked plate, covering it with paper and rolling again until the ink had saturated the leaf enough to get a strong print, peeling the leaf carefully from the plate, transferring it to the banner, and rolling it again to create the impression. They worked in small teams, experimenting with colour combinations and enjoying the chance to get messy!
The finished story banners