A Spell for Hilma
After Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 1, Childhood (1907), Hilma af Klint
spell for Hilma af Klint
– Stacey Teague
you know which colour to choose / see a flicker of yourself amongst the blue / as if it were winking back at you / a vision foretells a life / a kind of seeing in all directions / you decide you like this one best / this image as it curves through your being / you want to move as it moves / like an orange peel floating on water / you swirl around little swirler / imagining yourself embryonic / feel energies between heaven and earth / listen to the spirit guide / enclosed side by side / flowing between palettes of yellow and blue / find the pigment that is yours only / take a finger and dip it in / write in looping cursive until it uncovers / a name unknown to you but lights up in the centre / there is no joy / but a longing to be inside one structure / while being held inside of another / yours is an astral grief / the flowers grow all around the edges / there is a wreath hanging on the wall / waiting to be unflourished / build yourself a temple to house these structures / to house your head as it vibrates / believing in itself / you start at the beginning /
After Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth (1907), Hilma af Klint
– Rebecca Hawkes
All this life and I have not learned what to do with my despair. Blunt
cleaver in my kitchen. Trying to chop a withering corn cob, parchment husk
stripped, greyish silk brittle. The cleaver sticks in the woody core without cutting
clean. I raise the cleaver again, the whole cob lifting with it – smash
the sweetcorn onto the countertop so hard the kernels burst,
spraying a yellow mist of raw corn juice wall to wall in my little apartment.
I cannot paint. Everything is so small. A shoebox life in an egg-cup city. Cleaning up
the shattered corn I tread on a blank canvas. Laid flat on the carpet; nowhere else to put it.
I drop my backpack at the gallery desk. The bulging bag stinks,
burdened with farmers’ market bargains – a bruised kilo of plums
taut to bursting, mottled omega skins slack on velveteen meat, and
a discounted pineapple so ripe it has seeped gold through the seams
of its crocodile rind, and then the bag, soaking the small of my back.
Every heavy thing I have carried through the day, I leave
in the foyer. I bear only those lingering musks of ripeness and rot,
a pen in my hand and a fossilised ammonite on a chain at my throat.
The iridescent nacre is wearing off the shell of my fossil mollusk. Its play of fire
erodes slowly over my heart. How long was it a secret in the bedrock, a tiny spiral temple
that built itself chamber by chamber, then was buried? Hilma’s art unspools from the past.
Consider the trust it takes to think one’s hand may be guided by a higher force,
or that one day the world will welcome your life’s work. I am in awe of anyone
who can grow up and still make things. To make art as a portal to a possible future
when sometimes I am only sickened by hope. But her work is here, alive in a new cruel century.
A dove wipes clean its bloody beak. My heart expands into a larger chamber.
In this painting youth is a delicate, exuberant thing. A searching tendril
on a cucumber vine that traces fine line loop-de-loops hooting woo-hoo-hoo.
Tender curlicues seeking higher sunlight and sensation. Youth, you curious snail,
expanding from the nuclear whorl to taste the world with sensitive tentacles.
Youth a swooping orchid form. Youth a spun wheel in which any roulette quadrant
promises ecstasy. No pens are permitted in the gallery, as a stipulation of the insurance policy.
I am so small, I am insignificant, but in me gushes a kind of force that has to go forward.
Everything existed in youth, where we sowed our dreams. Now, how goes the harvest?
In the hard world I struggle to open my heart. Do I even remember my secret dreams?
Nowadays you might find me seeking meaning in the inherent beauty of a zucchini spiraliser,
noodles of flayed courgette extruding though in perfect helixes. I am pleased
by the economy of it. Another plastic thing I have no room for. But see the spirals
do their noodly revolutions, in my apartment that still smells of sweetcorn sugar. Ammonite
pendant still warmed by my skin. For Hilma the snail could mean either retreat or evolution.
In the self-portrait a shell rests on her shoulders, whorl expanding to swallow her red heart.
Why not live enormously? Start a painting the size of my whole home. The size of my life.
After The Swan, No. 1 (1915), Hilma af Klint
inside you there are two swans
– Ash Davida Jane
the swans are not fighting
they perform a dance
in perfect unison they pretend
the one is the other’s mirror image
two beaks barely brushing the glass
at the point of reflection
inside you there are two swans
they want to be let out they
tuck their heads under a ruffled wing
razor tip of a claw
scratching your sternum where the breath
catches if you could only catch it
inside the swans there are two frames
in miniature pencil strokes still visible
under fresh wet colour
one an image of being able to feel
joy in the future the other
everything that could be called a burden
I’m afraid the swans are becoming unruly
each bird crawling into its bird life
crawling out of tranquillity
oyster pink beneath like mushrooms
fruiting in waves finding new ways to fill space
the burden of a body or the body of burden
as in a body of work will you keep working
without them or will it be too quiet
without them will you be lonely
lonely how will you carry your body
After Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 6, Adulthood (1907), Hilma af Klint
After, you buy pears and rolled oats, as if your world hadn’t split open then sealed itself up with a new glow and no scar
– Leah Dodd
Nothing to show except two fridge magnets, plastic on powdered rust, the spirals of life made small enough to hold a poem, a postcard, a picture of your dad in his twenties, grinning with still-dark hair. How strange just to see them, stuck brightly while reaching for cheese, pickled onions, like playing god, like you’ve stolen a moon and instead of waxing all it does is laugh, right at you, loud as your own blood in the bone of each night. A power thing, probably. A way to keep the feeling but in a neater way, a convenient spike of wonder alongside toast and tea. Truth is, you’ve been here before. You have left your familiar life once already, when you were both stoat and trap cradling cold white egg, circled by medics but so alone with your pain and your marvel that all you craved was salt and a sweet death, you have made a whole life in the unfamiliar, a life without edges, only a blue that melts into mauve and back again, only a new future with white teeth and a head of gold hair who kisses your cheeks and eats last night’s satay noodles, calling the broccoli good trees, while you sit on the kitchen floor singing folk songs, Disney songs, made-up songs about bread crusts and blackbirds, songs about Persian love cakes made with rose petals and pistachios, your future and your end reaching up to be held close for Harvest Moon, you have made a whole life here, you have made a whole life
After Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 7, Adulthood (1907), Hilma af Klint
– Sinead Overbye
here are memories made visible in ink
when she shuts her eyes, she feels them
scatter outwards, circle back beneath her skin
tendrils dig deep to the core of her
feelings seeping from the offshoots
remember this they say
she has lived a long life Hilma
in the morning, sun drapes the floor
in Ateljébyggnaden she goes weeks
when she does, dons a grey wool coat
& leather gloves smiles at no one
looks down as she walks
she loves the taste of the world
at sunset toffee-apple, cherry malt
or else the lavender-blonde of summer
soft caress of wind on cheek
they all open their arms to her
she has spent all these years knowing
but the world must wait.
After Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 9, Old Age (1907), Hilma af Klint
– Carolyn DeCarlo
It's not a notion I usually like to entertain, but –
the smell of death excites me.
I was walking yesterday
through a park I sometimes take my dog to.
She hates it there,
too many sounds,
too many men.
The smell of trash hit me
through my mask,
a little delight.
I met eyes with a man in steel-capped boots,
and we shared the little thrill.
It was warm,
the smell –
and a bit sick.
Soft, like falling down
nose first into a bed of mushrooms.
When I die,
I want mushrooms to bloom from my body
and be eaten by those I leave behind.
I want to be a feast.
Hilma af Klint
City Gallery Wellington
4 December – 27 March 2022