Abstract painting has significantly changed the way we see the world in western culture. Descriptiveness and illustrativeness of the image were substituted by conceptual thinking and the dynamism of color and shape. However, more than a century has passed since the revolution of abstraction, and the history of contemporary art and visual culture faces different challenges. These include the long-term effort to raise the visibility of women artists and redefine the male-dominated canon. At the time of technicization and scientization of everyday life, there is also the society-wide tendency to (re)discover the powers of nature, mysticism, and spirituality.

Both of these tendencies are addressed in the documentary Beyond The Visible – Hilma af Klint by German director Halina Dyrschka from 2019. The film presents Swedish painter Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) who is now globally celebrated but was neglected for centuries. The artist who had developed the principles of abstract painting in her extensive series of large-sized canvases long before the world ever heard of abstraction (or even saw it) received a key retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in 2019, along with the confirmation that visual art textbooks need to be revised. Moreover, the interest in spiritual teachings and the endeavor to define the archetypal principles of life, which permeate the artist’s work, intersect with the current interest of (not only) visual art in expanding our ways of world exploration. Who could Hilma af Klint have been? Why did art history ignore her for so long? Who and why has the right and power to rewrite art history?

Screened in Czech premiere, the film is brought to you by Fresh Eye, ArtMap and Documentary Monday as part of the Culture Wars film series.

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