Visionary Drawings: Emma Kunz
The Serpentine Gallery is currently hosting the first ever UK retrospective of the visionary artist, healer and researcher, Emma Kunz (1892–1963). Kunz believed that her art was meant for the 21st century. Never shown during her lifetime, these geometric drawings do indeed speak to the modern viewer. Their mathematical perfection is warmed by coloured scribbles in her own hand. They hold kinetic energy and organic innocence, and their hypnotic symmetry is soothing to the eye. Whether or not you think this is your taste it is well worth a visit. You will be surprised, and the more you learn about Kunz the more extraordinary it becomes.
“Everything happens according to a certain regularity which I sense inside me and which never lets me rest.” Emma Kunz
Kunz lived and worked in the Swiss countryside, and worked as a healer and researcher of medicine and the natural world. As a child, she discovered telepathic and extra-sensory powers. Having received no formal training, she produced hundreds of geometric drawings which she understood to be visions of energy fields. She used these drawings to diagnose her patients who sought her help for physical and mental ailments.
In her forties, she began doing large scale geometric drawings through radiesthesia: a technique of using a pendulum to plot compositions onto graph paper. She would work continuously and feverishly for periods that stretched into days. She did not, however, write down the meaning of her pieces, or even name them. This mystery allows the modern viewer of today to read their own narratives into her graphic works.
Her work is, for her, the visual representation of her holistic worldview. They hold extremes and contradictions within them: they are systematic and expressive, technical and organic, and contain both micro and macro perspectives within them. As Swiss curator Harald Szeemann (1933–2005) wrote “Emma Kunz’s drawings are attempts to find a universal connection. They are the records of her concentration on the question of the Whole.” She lived within the scientific and ethereal, and through her drawings found a medium that, for her, expressed the two.
Her works are for the most part abstract, yet many of them hold human forms within them. Work No. 012 known as Philosophy of Life is understood to represent a diagram of a man within the universe and to symbolise Kunz’s world view. The vertical axis symbolises the upward trajectory toward enlightenment. The vertical axis represents man’s balance between evil and good. By seeing the work in real life, I was amazed by just how human and emotive this type of work could be. The scratchy imperfection of crayon adds depth and interest. Her own hand scribbled across these mathematical pages, creating texture and adding a sense of innocence. In viewing the pieces your eyes flit between the minute and the whole. Symmetry that at first seems perfect quickly scatters into a more complex and imperfect pattern. A kaleidoscope effect draws your eye to the centre with hypnotic effects. She was a true visionary, and this is art for our time.