Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Halina Dyrschka
By Joan Amenn
“I think this world has forgotten how to marvel. In 1900, we still knew how to marvel.”
–Ernst Peter Fischer, science historian
A human mind capable of understanding multiple disciplines of thought is often called a “Renaissance Man,” referencing Leonardo Da Vinci and his abilities in art and science. But what if that “Renaissance Man” was a woman? Hilma AF Klint was a student of biology and physics as well as a creative genius but her work has been virtually erased from any record of art history. Director Halina Dyrschka has captured the startling, powerful story of a woman pioneering an artistic style that revolutionized painting and yet was almost completely unknown until decades after her death.
Hilma AF Klint graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm with so much prestige that she was awarded a studio on the campus to continue her work. Her portraits, landscapes and magazine illustrations paid her handsomely but her heart sought greater sources of inspiration. The radical new theories of the atom that were the talk of Europe at the beginning of the 20th Century captured her imagination. Like Da Vinci straddled the worlds of science and art, AF Klint synthesized a visual language to depict the workings of the universe as she understood it. This led to the birth of Abstraction years before the work of Wassily Kandinsky as the academically acknowledged pioneer of this artistic style. “Beyond the Visible” (2020) makes an engaging and somewhat incensed case for rewriting history to restore the name of a woman who was discouraged from revealing her visions to the world. This discouragement came chiefly from men, not surprisingly, but also from the culturally accepted norms of her time. Women artists were popular in her native Sweden as long as they made “pretty art.” Hilma was well beyond the decorative in what she was conveying on her canvasses. From the subatomic to the cosmic and spiritual, she was convinced she had a calling to transcribe higher states of consciousness through her paintings. She also came to believe the world of the early 1900’s was not ready to accept her work and kept most of it wrapped up in her studio, never to be seen in her lifetime.
“Beyond the Visible” reveals the paintings of Hilma in all their astonishing glory. Equally amazing are her multitude of notebooks in which she discusses her work and inspirations as well as sketches her ideas. The film also points out that many women artists are overlooked in museums and academic studies not because they are not as “good” as men, but because art is commercialized and the marketplace is male dominated. Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner and others followed the path that AF Klint brilliantly created, never knowing that they were being inspired by a movement that originated as a woman’s vision. AF Klint was a giant among modern artists and “Beyond the Visible” is an excellent first step in building her international recognition.