Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint
by Hope Madden
Film pioneer Alice Guy Blache and contemporary art ground-breaker Yayoi Kusama were copied, hidden and disregarded by the predominantly male industry that determined not only financial success but historical acknowledgment.
In 1906 – five years before Kandinsky painted Composition VII, long considered the genesis of abstract art—Sweden’s Hilma af Klimpt had already created a breathtaking series of abstracts. Not that you’ve heard of her.
How could you? As Halina Dyrschka’s documentary Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint points out, she wasn’t accepted in her time.
Not uncommon for a great artist. What Dyrschka and those she speaks with in the documentary find far more frustrating is that today, even when her genius is acknowledged (more than a million visitors have taken in the current exhibition of her work), art history shuns her.
Leaving behind hundreds of paintings and thousands of pages of journal entries and sketches, af Klint offers an unusual story of a singular life. Inspired by science, nature and spirituality in ways that would seem wildly uncommon today and must have been outright bizarre in her time, she devoted herself to a vibrant artistic exploration.
The filmmaker lingers lovingly on the work, devoting every inch of screen to the vivid color and fascinating images. She surrounds footage of the paintings with landscapes, architecture and even talking head footage framed for elegance. The material balances the energy of af Klint’s work with a calm that’s sometimes even quietly spiritual.
Still, the underlying outrage at history’s reluctance to accept the truth gives the film an energy matched by the excitement of discovery, which is never lost on the filmmaker. As impatient as the film is with the unhurried acknowledgment of genius, it’s equally thrilled to be able to share this genius with an eager if unknowing audience.