Breaking Myths! : Unveiling the storytelling processes in the reception of Hilma af Klint from the 1980s and 2010s

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Institutionen för kultur och estetik

Abstract: This dissertation studies the critical reception of Hilma af Klint trough three exhibitions: Spiritual in Art – Abstract Painting 1890-1985 (Los Angeles, 1986), Secret Pictures by Hilma af Klint, (Helsinki, 1988) and Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction (Stockholm, 2013), addressing the crucial prominent figures and voices in the discursive field around af Klint. The aim is carried out through the Critical Discourse Analysis by Norman Fairclough, coupled with Pierre Bourdieu's concept of the cultural field and habitus. Judith Butler's theory of gender performance completes the theoretical framework by addressing issues of gender in both af Klint's practice as well as in the analysed critical reviews. The thesis examines how the discourses about af Klint changed during different periods of time in the 1980s and the 2010s. The central hypothesis is that this case study can be used as an example to see how the art field presents women artists as a marginal phenomenon instead of including them in the general art historical canon. But the reception of af Klint cannot be fully understood through the lens of gender; thus, e.g. the closeness to the occult is considered both as a leading mechanism in the artistic practice, creating interest towards af Klint, and as an identity which pushes her to the marginal. The results of this study lead to a better understanding of critical articles' role in the cultural phenomena's narrative creation.

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