Given they're both known for abstract works the exhibition surprises us by showing how they started off painting rather traditional landscapes and studies of flowers. It was Af Klint who was more interested in the spiritual nature of her subject and yet her floral paintings more closely resemble botanical illustrations, while there's a greater freedom to Mondrian's work. Likewise with Mondrian's tree where the red in the trunk leaps from the painting as if the core of the tree were afire.
The exhibition tries to draw further parallels between the artists by showing how spiritualism impacted their works. This is obvious for Af Klint, after all she claimed that her large scale and stunning 'The Paintings for the Temple' were commissioned by her spiritual guide Amaliel, and they are filled with spiritual and religious symbolism. Mondrian on the other hand has a rare triptych of blue bodied figures that feels otherworldly, but once he ventures into his more renowned rectilinear works it's hard to see a spiritual element in these later works.
While the later works of the two artists do diverge significantly, they are the real highlights of the show and a room filled with towering paintings, representing the stages of life, by Af Klint is a powerful finish to the show. Standing within this darkened space feels like we've stepped inside the artist's mind and travelled to her world. It's overwhelming and a brilliant contrast to the calm compositions by Mondrian in the previous room.
There are great works from both artists in this show but the nagging thought throughout is why pair the two together. It's natural to create an artist pairing when trying to show a new angle to artists whose works have been shown a lot, but Af Klint's works have only recently been gaining traction and it's been an age since a major Mondrian exhibition in London. Giving both artists their own solo presentations would have been more fitting in allowing them to shine individually, rather than shoe-horning them together into an exhibition that can't fully do justice to both artists.
Second image: Piet Mondrian, The Red Cloud. Courtesy Kunstmuseum Den Haag
Third image: Courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation
|What||Hilma Af Klint & Piet Mondrian: forms of life, Tate Modern, review|
|Where||Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Southwark (underground)|
20 Apr 23 – 03 Sep 23, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|