Emma Kunz’s work will appear in a two-venue large-scale group exhibition as a result of the partnership between the Kathmandu Triennale and Para Site Hong Kong. Her work will first appear at Garden of Six Seasons in Para Site, and then travel to Kathmandu.
Garden of Six Seasons, a precursor to the 2020 Kathmandu Triennale, is interested in the image- and object-making lineages that transversed or unfolded in parallel to the fractures of the modern. It will discuss appropriate frameworks of understanding and bringing together these multiple aesthetic and cosmological lineages that are active today, from paubha painting in Nepal to ink in East Asia and barkcloth in the Pacific, as well as to other languages marginalised by a Eurocentric cannon. These explorations of vocabularies of representation will also include a genealogy of map-making, from the depiction of the whole universe to the inner human body, instruments for navigating the earth and healing the body.
The exhibition is also crucially interested in indigenous knowledge that is active and subversive, working towards the upending of patriarchal structures and dominant national frameworks, creating a new global solidarity of places and communities of resistance. Another direction of the exhibition will be a “garden show”, being aware that humans have been creating artificial environments ever since they started making objects, either in the process of economically exploiting and dislocating nature or through the sophisticated manipulation of garden design. Both of these practices have always been culturally specific, similar to other art forms and cultural practices.
Emma Kunz (1892-1963) was a Swiss artist, healer, and researcher. As a young child, she became aware of her capacity for telepathy and extra-sensory powers. At 18, she began applying these powers and, in parallel, making drawings in exercise books. In her 40s, she started large-scale drawings using the technique of radiesthesia. She would consult a divining pendulum, by posing a question, and then the answer would subsequently reveal itself within the drawing that appeared on these large sheets of graph paper. For Kunz, each colour and shape had a precise meaning in her understanding of the world. She understood her images as holograms, with a spatial dimension, that could be unfolded and collapsed. These drawings could be spiritual or philosophical, they could contain the cause and treatment of an illness for one of her patients, or they could provide an explanation of a political situation and the resulting consequences of it.
Kunz’s art also has a significant relevance through its original and pioneering contribution to our understanding of abstraction, contributions that only started to be fully recognized in recent years, long after her death, by a still patriarchal art history.