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Famed abstract artists capture nature as you’ve never seen it before

AT THE Tate Modern gallery in London, two pioneering artists who never met are finally brought into conversation.

Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian trained as landscape painters in the late 19th century – af Klint in Sweden, Mondrian in the Netherlands. They also died in the same year, 1944, by which time each had developed a unique abstract style.

Both worked in an era coming to terms with huge advances in microscopy, radiography and photography. The world available to the human senses had been revealed as a mere sliver of that accessible to science.

Each artist’s output included what we would now call scientific “visualisation”. Af Klint conveyed insights about how things grow in paintings inspired by botanical illustration, as in No. 9, Old Age from The Ten Largest series (main image).

Mondrian’s interest in the mechanics of visual perception saw him break images down to their perceptual units, so that his Arum Lily; Blue flower (pictured above) is an assembly of lines, lozenge shapes and diagonals.

Af Klint’s “world tree” paintings grew almost diagrammatic in their effort to express the cosmic connections between all life, as in Tree of Knowledge (pictured above). Her attempts to map her own perceptual associations are more startling still.

The two works above and below are the culmination of a series that began with an image of two swans. Shown here are The Swan, No. 19 (pictured above) and No. 17 (pictured below), from The SUW Series, Group IX.

Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of life is at the Tate Modern until 3 September.

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