Saturday, September 19, 2020

Jenseits des Sichtbaren – Hilma af Klint / Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint


Halina Dyrschka: Jenseits des Sichtbaren – Hilma af Klint / Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint (2019).

Halina Dyrschka: Jenseits des Sichtbaren – Hilma af Klint / Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint (2019). Reenactment of the artist channeling spiritual visions with gouache on paper.

Hilma af Klint: Självporträtt, n.d. From: Oh Nena com.

Hilma af Klint – ilmeisen tuolla puolen / Bortom det synliga – filmen om Hilma af Klint.
    DE/SE/CH/GB 2019 © 2018 Ambrosia Film. Year of release: 2019. P: Eva Illmer, Halina Dyrschka. EX: Alex Dewart.
    D+SC: Halina Dyrschka. Cin: Alicja Pahl, Luana Knipfer – HD – colour – 16:9 – release: DCP. Colour grading: Natalie Maximova. Kamera-Bühne: Florian Al Salk. AD: Susanne Dieringer. M: Damian Scholl. S: Niklas Kammertöns, Clemens Nürnberger. ED: Antje Lass, Mario Orias, Halina Dyrschka.
    Featuring: Johan af Klint (The Hilma af Klint Foundation), Julia Voss, Ulla af Klint, Josiah McEhleny, Iris Müller-Westermann, Valeria Napoleone, Ernst Peter Fischer.
    Sprecher: Petra van de Voort.
    Loc: Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Estonia, Switzerland, Austria.
    Languages: Swedish, German, English.
    94 min
    Festival premiere: 27 Jan 2019 Göteborg Film Festival
    Swedish premiere: 4 Oct 2019
    German premiere: 5 March 2020
    Verleih: DE and World Sales: mindjazz pictures, SE: Folkets Bio, US: Zeitgeist Films.
    Finnish premiere: 14 Aug 2020, distributor: Oy Cinema Mondo Ltd, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Anitra Paukkula / Joanna Erkkilä
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki, 19 Sep 2020.

Filmportal: "Dokumentarfilm über die schwedische Künstlerin Hilma af Klint, die – wie sich erst in den 1980er Jahren herausstellte – schon 1906 abstrakte Gemälde schuf und somit den bis dahin angenommenen Begründern der Abstrakten Kunst (z.B. Kandinsky, Mondrian und Malewitsch) zuvorkam. Im Laufe ihrer unbekannten Karriere malte Hilma af Klingt rund 1.200 Bilder. In ihrem Testament verfügte sie jedoch, dass diese frühestens 20 Jahre nach ihrem Tod veröffentlicht werden dürften. Der Dokumentarfilm spürt dem Leben und Wirken der Künstlerin nach und beleuchtet, warum sie so lange verkannt blieb." (Filmportal)

Ambrosia Film: Die Entdeckung der Abstraktion: "Die Kunstwelt macht eine sensationelle Entdeckung – nur 100 Jahre zu spät. 1906 malte Hilma af Klint ihr erstes abstraktes Bild, lange vor Kandinsky, Mondrian oder Malewitsch. Wie kann es sein, daß eine Frau Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts die abstrakte Malerei begründet und niemand nimmt Notiz?"

"Heute begeistert die Künstlerin Millionen mit ihrem schrankenlosen Denken, das in einem überwältigenden Werk gipfelt und damit die Geschichte verändert. Die filmische Annäherung an eine Pionierin, deren sinnliches Oeuvre nicht nur künstlerisch fasziniert, zeigt zudem eine lebenslange Sinnsuche, die das Leben jenseits des Sichtbaren erfassen will. Die außergewöhnliche Gedankenwelt der Hilma af Klint reicht über Biologie, Astronomie, Theosophie bis hin zur Relativitätstheorie und spannt so einen faszinierender Kosmos aus einzigartigen Bildern und Aufzeichnungen bis hin zu unserem ureigensten Empfinden.
" (Ambrosia Film)

AA: I like in Halina Dyrschka's film Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint the courage to think big.

Even literally the legacy is big. Many of af Klint's artworks are over three meters long and wide (see the illustrations above). The legacy is big also in terms of tally: 1200 paintings and 26 000 manuscript pages (meticulously written, not far from calligraphy). On the cinema screen we can experience the size, and in montage sequences we can grasp the multitude of variations.

As an artist, Hilma af Klint led a double life. She was a perfect professional painter and illustrator in the established trends of her day. But she had also a secret life as an abstract painter, not following trends but creating them. Halina Dyrschka crystallizes them in montages of connections between Hilma af Klint and Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, et al. In each case, af Klint was the predecessor, but she could have no influence, because her works were never exhibited in galleries or auctions. To those connections I would add surrealism (automatic writing) and abstract expressionism (certain paintings of af Klint have affinities with Mark Rothko).

Like other abstract painters, af Klint was seriously involved in the spiritualist movements of the day, and most of all she was committed to theosophy, the only spiritual movement that accepted women as equals including the possibility of becoming a priestess.

Into af Klint's official achievements belonged beautiful academic series of illustrations of Swedish flowers. The organic form is also a fertile background to af Klint's abstractions. Mussels, snails, flowers, mushrooms, trees and animals seem to have inspired them, as well as phenomena of the inorganic nature, such as streams shining in the sun. In her academic illustrations I am reminded of the von Wright brothers, "the Audubon of Finland", hardly an inspiration. Instead, af Klint is known to have been an admirer of Leonardo da Vinci.

Halina Dyrschka thinks big also in terms of science, evoking the scientific revolutions in the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, concerning cell biology, electricity, electromagnetism, radioactivity, atomic theory and quantum physics – all connected by the insight that the defining structures are invisible. Seen that way, Hilma af Klint's art can be understood, besides theosophic epiphanies, as poetic visions of unseen dimensions of the natural world.

Dyrschka invites us to af Klint's homes and favourite trysts including Konstakademin, Blanch's Café, Adelsö, Gierda and Ösby. We know little of her private life and relationships. She was a single woman born into an aristocratic family. She supported herself with the official part of her art. Her private life was private.

Af Klint belonged to a circle of spiritualists called "The Five", and she wanted to establish a Theosophic temple in Sweden, displaying her art, but Rudolf Steiner discouraged her, also as an artist. However, Steiner photographed her works and showed them to Kandinsky before he launched his own line of abstract art. This is a subject for further research. Perhaps even an art historical detective story.

Af Klint's abstract art was meant to exist outside the marketplace. It was a spiritual saga and a history of a soul. Hilma af Klint had no interest in fame and recognition. Her name is even missing from the family grave. There are no memorials in Sweden to one of the country's greatest artists.


Susan Tallman in her essay "Painting the Beyond" in The New York Review of Books (4 April 2019) questions Hilma af Klint's status as the pioneer of abstract art. Af Klint did not see herself as a creator but a mediator. "Bilderna målades genom mig med stor kraft": "The images were painted through me with great force". But I would argue that a similar sense connects many great artists since classical Antiquity to this day.

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story, of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end” (Homer: The Odyssey).

Meditation and worship has always been inseparable from major trends of art. "Soli Deo Gloria" was the motto of J. S. Bach. "Primitive artworks" in Western museums are neither primitive nor meant as art. They are sacred objects repurposed by colonialism, as exposed by Alain Resnais and Chris Marker in Les Statues meurent aussi.

Tallman catalogues traditions of abstraction in art including diagrams, prints, mandalas, yin and yang symbols and I Ching hexagrams. Her list could be vastly expanded to the dawn of art and mankind. Visual art was born in the dual inspiration of the realistic and the formative, the animistic and the geometric and the profane and the sacred. That is documented on the walls of the oldest cave paintings.

Even they were hardly thought as art, they had not the function of art. They mean art for us, but we don't know what they signified at the time. Only one thing is certain: they were not meant to be seen but only to exist, like Hilma af Klint's abstract art that was created to established a connection beyond the visible.

Developments towards abstraction were everywhere in 19th century art, for instance in certain paintings by J. W. M. Turner. As soon as photography became widespread, painting was liberated from its calling to accurate reproduction. Even abstract cinema emerged within a few years from the revelations of Malevich and Kandinsky.

All this does not diminish Hilma af Klint's achievement, on the contrary. She was the first artist to build a consistent, huge oeuvre in abstract painting, exploring many of its possibilities.

Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), the great Swedish painter, was almost an exact contemporary of Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946), the most highly regarded Finnish painter. The international esteem of both has peaked in recent years, and both have now also been honoured by distinguished films (the latter by Helene, 2020, by Antti J. Jokinen).

My own relationship with Hilma af Klint keeps evolving slowly. I happened to visit (repeatedly, I think) the very first Hilma af Klint solo exhibition in the world, "Hilma af Klint's Secret Images", at Nordiskt Konstcentrum on the Suomenlinna sea fortress island, in 1988, but I was not aware of the full meaning of what I saw. (I was a regular Suomenlinna visitor at the time. It was my favourite place for walks, and while waiting for the ferry I frequented the Nordiskt Konstcentrum.) A bigger revelation was the "Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction" exhibition that I caught at Kunsthalle Helsinki during the Helsinki Festival in 2014. The eponymous wonderful catalogue by Moderna Museet I have cherished ever since. Halina Dyrschka's movie adds indispensably to the Hilma af Klint experience. With hindsight, I am not sure whether the Hilma af Klint hangings at the Nordiskt Konstcentrum and Kunsthalle Helsinki were ideal. I seem to be getting a stronger experience from the combination of the movie and the book.

Hilma af Klint: Serie Parsifal, Grupp II, nr 69, 1916 Akvarell och blyerts på papper 26,8 × 24,8 cm HAK279 © Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk.


"Koko taidemaailman 1900-luvun alussa mullistanutta abstraktia tyyliä luultiin pitkään Kandinskyn, Malevichin ja Mondrianin aloittamaksi. Nykyään tiedämme enemmän. Tyylin aloitti ruotsalainen naistaiteilija."

"Hilma af Klint maalasi suurenmoisia abstrakteja töitä jo vuonna 1906, useita vuosia aikaisemmin kuin venäläiset ja ranskalaiset avantgardistit. Useat tunnustettujen taiteilijoiden maalaukset muistuttavat af Klintin varhaisimpia töitä. Olisiko Kandinsky voinut nähdä af Klintin maalauksia ja ottanut niistä vaikutteita? Ajatus on huumaava."

"Af Klintin maalaukset löydettiin sattumalta Tukholman Strandvägenillä sijaitsevalta ullakolta 1960-luvun lopussa, eivätkä ne tuolloin herättäneet innostusta suurten taideinstituutioiden piirissä. Nykyään on toinen ääni kellossa. Tukholman Moderna, Louisiana Tanskassa ja New Yorkin Guggenheim, Turun taidemuseo ja Helsingin Taidehallli ovat kaikki järjestäneet ylistettyjä af Klint -näyttelyitä."

"Saksalaisohjaaja Halina Dyrschka onnistuu dokumentissaan sijoittamaan Hilma af Klintin ansaitsemalleen paikalle taidehistoriassa, sekä välittämään hänen töidensä ajattoman, hengellisen ja suurenmoisen tunneskaalan.


"The first abstract artist was a woman – Hilma af Klint. Misjudged and ignored for more than a century, she is now shaking the art world with her mind-expanding oeuvre."


"The art world is confronted with a sensational discovery – a hundred years too late! How could it happen, that an artist who discovered abstract painting at the beginning of the 20th century remained largely unnoticed? Hilma af Klint’s first abstract painting is dated 1906, four years before that of Vassily Kandinsky. Why was she ignored?"

"This is the first film about her life and work. It investigates the role accorded to women in art history and asks why Hilma af Klint was scandalously denied the status of a pioneer of modern art. And how this recognition is now finally taking place. Today her exhibitions are attracting millions of people worldwide."

"The cinematic approach of her paintings reveals an artist who is seeking for meaning in life beyond the visible. Hilma af Klint’s clairvoyant work developed a unique visual world and more than 25.000 pages of notes reveal a boundless thinking that led into an outstanding oeuvre."

"Her timeless paintings cross all conventional borders and resonate with our innermost feelings today.


"Very seldom there are really surprising discoveries. So, on a seemingly normal Sunday morning I read the following title in the newspaper: “Art history has to be rewritten.” What a great idea in the year 2013! This article was telling about an abstract artist who seemed to be unknown."

"A few months later in Berlin I visited the exhibition “Hilma af Klint – A pioneer of abstraction” – and was speechless: exuberant colour compositions in overdimensional paintings. I was standing in the middle of a hall surrounded by Hilma af Klint’s “Ten Largest”: Altogether 25 meters of paintings – 3,60 meters high. And beyond this paintings a whole world."

"But why – and here my voice came back to me – have they kept from me so long? I almost felt personally insulted when I read that this was a new discovery and the paintings have been hidden for decades. Could that be true? And who is interested in marginalizing this artist’s accomplishment? And why?"

"Now it is more than time to tell the untold heroine stories. And there are many of them. This is one."

"Starting the research immediately after the exhibition I discovered a very different picture of Hilma af Klint: Not at all alone or lonely and not hiding her paintings from the world. Here was a women who consequently followed her own path in life that led to a unique oeuvre. A strong character and dispite all restrictions Hilma af Klint explored the possibilities that go beyond the visible. She knew that she was doing something important not only for herself but for many people."

"This is a film about a truly successful life. A women who was not dependent of the opinion of others and kept on going her very unique way of living and working. Dedicated to things that matter. Matter in everybody’s life. How do we want to live? How do we achieve a truly content and fulfilled life? And is that what see real or do we just think it is real?"

"Hilma af Klint’s oeuvre goes even beyond art because she was looking for the whole picture of life. And with that she comes close to the one question: What are we doing here?

Halina Dyrschka

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