Not knowing anything about spiritual art, drawing with a pendulum or healing, I entered the Serpentine Gallery wide-eyed, and with a fairly open mind. The exhibition of Emma Kunz’s geometric drawings is timed with the third instalment of the symposium on interspecies consciousness, The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants, including workshops reflecting on plant sentience, erotic botany, healing and spirituality. I suddenly realised I was way out of my depth, and not waving, but drowning. I had heard of neurobiologists, and the work they were doing in monitoring the behaviour of plants and how they have to find energy, reproduce and ward off predators, but this was a step too far. Kunz was a Swiss naturopath and self-taught artist, who discovered her gifts of telepathy, prophesy and healing at an early age, using a pendulum and magnetism to polarise marigolds in her garden, which produced multiple flower-heads as a result. She would use her drawings as guides to formulate diagnoses for both the mind and body of her patients.
At first sight, the 60-odd drawings, or the sixty odd drawings, look like variations on a child’s spirographic doodles, but on closer examination, they reveal an extraordinary attention to detail, symmetry and intricate geometry, each one drawn onto a large sheet of graph paper with pencil, crayon and oil crayon. It is difficult not to interpret the geometric shapes as almost anything figurative: arrows, quasi-Islamic patterns, flowers opening, architectural drawings of arches or viaducts, a bird’s-eye view of buildings, a compass, Japanese rising suns, a Star of David, a sweeping radar display, a spider’s web, an owlish figure, a vagina, a Slinky toy, a carton of eggs, graveyard crosses, a whirligig, a mysterious board game, devils and a Rorschach inkblot test. It feels as if the whole exhibition is an elaborate psychological test to determine the viewer’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning. One can sit on one of the three fossiliferous limestone benches, made from a healing rock discovered by Kunz in 1942 in the Roman quarry in Würenlos, in the canton of Aargau, and named Aiona A, meaning ‘without limitation’. The rock is still mined and used to treat a range of health issues across Switzerland. The fellow Swiss, and artistic director of the Serpentine, Hans Ulrich Obrist, confesses to have a daily ritual of taking Aiona A as a fine powder for therapeutic purposes, washed down with one of Kunz’s herbal essences; so who would dare argue against their beneficial properties? Some have leapt upon her designs as being ‘cosmic’, and related to corn circles, with one advocate, John Mitchell, a geomancer and editor of The Ceriologist, talking about a ‘revelation’ when he thinks of their shared geometric language and that, although her visual works have little similarity, the meanings hidden within them may have more in common than one would assume, suggesting a connection. The geometric drawings, or ‘energy fields’ that she captured on paper, ‘document her knowledge in code’. Whether one believes that crop circles are formed by some form of paranormal phenomena, magnetism, meteorological activity, aliens or simply by pranksters preying on gullible minds, there are plenty of theories to go round. And round.
Emma Kunz: Visionary Drawings
Until 19 May 2019