Now Streaming: ‘Beyond the Visible’ unveils forgotten female artist

We’re all missing our communal time in movie theaters right now, but thanks to Kino Marquee, “virtual screening rooms” are now open, benefiting temporarily closed independent theaters, filmmakers and viewers alike. Kino Marquee is offering audiences a virtual theatrical engagement to see a film that will bend the archives of art history, Halina Dyrschka’s Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint. Now available to stream.

Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Piet Mondrian, and Wassily Kandinsky. All famous and recognizable abstract artists, but the woman who perhaps began the modern art movement and influenced these artists is a name yet to be acknowledged: Hilma of Klint. Art historians and enthusiasts will be rewriting history as they gain knowledge of one of the most innovatively progressive artists in the early 20th century thanks to Dyrschka’s new documentary. 

Berlin-born Dyrschka’s passionate determination to tell the world of the obvious omissions in the world of art comes ringing through loud and clear in a recent conversation with the director.   Classically trained in theater, Dyrschka began as an actor, but she tells FF2 Media in a recent interview, “The parts for women are incredibly lousy and not very interesting.  … I wanted to do a project from the very beginning to the very end.” After completing the award-winning festival favorite short film,  “Neuneinhalbs Abschied” (“Nine and a Half Goodbyes”),” a children’s film addressing the taboo subject of death, Dyrschka knew that filmmaking was the right choice for her.

Documentarian Dyrschka first learned of Hilma of Klint in a German newspaper article entitled “Art History Needs to be Rewritten.” Initially intrigued by the article, Dyrschka learned of an upcoming Stockholm exhibit of Hilma’s work in Berlin. At this point, her intrigue turned to anger after gazing upon the incredibly powerful and larger than life masterpieces. Dyrschka, so moved by the pieces, says, “…everybody who has ever seen the painting of Hilma of Klint live, especially the 10 largest …  and  [then] you recall what you have read about her so far in 2013, well, she was forgotten.”  She continued, “It’s not possible to see those paintings and not talk about it. I realized that everything that was so far said or even repeated in the newspaper articles, couldn’t be true. I thought it must have been a lie.”

Hilma of Klint

Dyrschka began her nearly five-year research and film project, incredulous that Sweden, a progressive gender equality country not known for their artists, would not have already created a film about this woman. Dyrschka took me back to her first archival discovery of the packed and stored canvases in Sweden. She asked for the art to be unveiled to which she exclaimed, “It looks like an Andy Warhol!”  Throughout the film, Dyrschka’s side-by-side comparisons are uncanny with Kandinsky’s, Warhol’s and others, supposed original and “genius” creations mimicking Dyrschka almost identically.  

Perhaps the first to make this comparison, Dyrschka said that while Hilma was pushed out of history after her death, and like all women of that era, she was never allowed to be a part of it while she was alive, either. Dyrschka came to another revelation about women in all aspects of discoveries at this time. “I figured out in my research, when there was a new art, like photography, I find that women were first because the men were still very busy by the traditional way [of] making careers. The women had the freedom because they were excluded. When men realized what they could do in that [newly-discovered] field, of course, they made their way in and said, you can go back to the kitchen.”

Dyrschka continued to give prime examples of this, but added that Hilma never wanted to be a part of something; she wanted to lead the way. Her biography suggests this, particularly as she never sold her art and until the end of her life, she searched for someone to safeguard it, keeping it together. Her voice can be “heard” in the film as Dyrschka, using mountains of journal entries, allows us to see her writing and how she integrated art and science in the most breathtakingly beautiful of ways.  

Acknowledging in the film and during our conversation that Hilma was a “spiritual” woman, Dyrschka feels that perhaps this is why Sweden never regaled her as the cutting-edge artist that she was. “I found that it is still easier to make a woman a witch than a man because Kandinsky was also interested in spirituality.”

While we see Hilma’s writing and gain a better understanding of her intellect and education as well as her vision of her world, Dyrschka recreates Hilma’s paintings with reenactments in the documentary. “I wanted it to feel like you’re with her.” Depicting the recreation of one of the largest paintings…you see the grandiose endeavor as Hilma herself was less than half that size.  Dyrschka continued, “She did them in a very short time. … but you can see that she did it in a meditational way. When she describes it, she’s very calm … there’s no stress and that’s what you see in this painting.” Dyrschka witnessed that calmness in patrons who were able to view Hilma’s work, describing those who gazed upon the art as exhibiting “pure joy.”  She added, “That is so special about her work.  I wanted to show how she is working and how it comes to life.”

Dyrschka’s five-year endeavor accentuated aspects of her own life and how she lived it, crediting Hilma’s influence upon her. Her focus and independent ways of accomplishing her goals reminds Dyrschka to do the same.

Looking back on starting this project, Dyrschka had plenty of closed doors. No one was interested in Hilma and those who met with Dyrschka asked why do a film about someone no one knows? Dyrschka, laughing, said, “Yes! That’s the point!” Dyrschka took the independent and unpaved path, much like Hilma, and completed what may be the art-history disrupter, aiding in not only rewriting the annals of art, but opening the doors of discovery of other overlooked and nearly forgotten female artists. Hilma of Klint may be gone, but her art lives on and she has found a kindred spirit in Dyrschka.

Go to Kino Marquee for a complete list of theaters and how to stream this at home. Kino Marquee lets audiences see at home newly released films that these theaters would otherwise be playing on the big screen, and which are not yet available on other digital platforms.

© Pamela Powell (4/17/20) FF2 Media

Photos courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

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Pamela Powell
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New York native film critic and film critic Pamela Powell now resides near Chicago, interviewing screenwriters and directors of big blockbusters and independent gems as an Associate for FF2 Media. With a graduate degree from Northwestern in Speech-Language Pathology, she has tailored her writing, observational, and evaluative skills to encompass all aspects of film. With a focus on women in film, Pamela also gravitates toward films that are eye-opening, educational, and entertaining with the hopes of making this world a better place. 
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