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Works by Paul Klee and Ivan Augéli exhibited together at Moderna Museet in Stockholm
Ivan Aguéli, African Landscape, ca 1914 © Ivan Aguéli Photo: Moderna Museet.

STOCKHOLM.- Moderna Museet starts the new art year with the exhibition Klee/Aguéli. Paul Klee and Ivan Augéli never met, and their works have been shown widely but in separate contexts. Now they meet for the first time, in an exhibition that shows how a painting of a garden or a palm grove can be an act of resistance.

Paul Klee (1879-1940, Switzerland) and Ivan Aguéli (1869-1917, Sweden) lived and worked in a time when Western modern society was beginning to take shape. However, as the world speeded up, they chose to linger with their gaze, searching for the “fourth dimension” (Aguéli), or “another possible world” (Klee), by being in touch with nature and the objects in their immediate surroundings. The exhibition Klee/Aguéli features 86 paintings and drawings, and is summed up by the words: creation, form, angels, signs and the garden.

Innocuous though it may sound, their observations of nature, the intimacy of their small paintings, and their delayed contrariness were not motivated by escapism or nostalgia, but by their views on how, and with what values, mankind should address the present and meet the future. In a time racked by two world wars, Paul Klee sought to “achieve a happy association between [his] vision of life and pure artistic craftsmanship” and to attain the greatest possible freedom through contemplation, imagination and play. Meanwhile, Ivan Aguéli strove to merge art, religion and reality, in search of an alternative to the Western “sordid age”. His early fascination for anti-totalitarian anarchism and Swedenborg’s mysticism inspired long sojourns in Cairo, his conversion to Islam in 1898, and intense studies of Sufism – an esoteric form of Islam, which emphasises the message of love and communion with God.

“It makes no difference if we call this spirituality, imagination or play. When the two artists make contact with reality through the rhythmic movement of the brush against the surface, what takes place is not depiction but a metamorphosis from object to immateriality. In our own turbulent era, it is a reminder of the great poetic and political potential that can be embedded in a small painted picture,” says Fredrik Liew, curator.

The exhibition Klee/Agúéli is accompanied by a text-based publication, where the artists’ own words alternate with the esoteric writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and Jalal al-din Rumi, poetry by Nelly Sachs and Jesper Svenbro, reflections on Orientalism and exoticism, texts on horticultural history, child pedagogy, and philosophical contemplations on subjects such as dreams and history.

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