Kazimir Malevich, 1878-1935
By Natasha Sivanandan
Kazimir Malevich was an artist who embodied the underlying philosophical and spiritual turmoil of the Russian revolutions of 1905 & 1917. Malevich pioneered the Suprematist movement, which sought to be aesthetically pure and free from political or social meaning. His radical approach to art was seen as a direct opposition to the collapsing old regime by his interminable questioning of cultural determinism in all its functions. Malevich to this day has inspired contemporary artists and architects; most notably Dame Zaha Hadid, who, for her fourth-year student-project, adapted Malevich’s sculpture Architecton A, into a hotel over the Thames. She found that by better understanding Malevich’s interpretation of abstraction and fragmentation, she was freed from certain dogmas of architecture. Malevich’s work was suppressed in Soviet Russia in the 1930s and it was not until two decades later that his reputation was renewed in the West by an interest in Minimalism and Hard-edge painting.
Despite being of Polish origin, he grew up in Belopoyle, Ukraine, where his father worked in sugar factories. In 1896 they moved to Kursk, a provincial town in Russia, where Malevich and his father worked for a railway company. He began painting at the age of 12 and in his teenage years he saved enough money to study in Moscow in the private school of painter Ivan Rerberg. He later studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he was taught in the style of Impressionism, which can be seen in his earlier work. From 1907-1913, Malevich participated in exhibitions and breakaway artistic groups that would later position him as the leading member of the Russian Futurist group of artists and writers.
Though his career as an artist and art theoretician was long-lasting and his impact great, his most famous, innotive and emotive work is Black Square, 1915. Malevich said;
He intended, with Black Square, to promote the abandonment of depicting reality and instead create a new world of shape and forms purely for art’s sake. Additionally, he wrote in his book The Non-Objective World,
Malevich theorised that, through visualising the world through pure shape and form, one could begin to change the world for the better. He believed that architecture and technology would play a key role in this venture.
To this day his work and theories, which tried to compose the volatility of the modern world in striking geometric abstractions and in free-floating space, still evoke intense feelings within the viewer, and even some, like Dame Hadid, have found through his work the ability to break free from the restraints of culturally deterministic and prescribed artistic norms and dogmas.
Anderson, Troels. “Malevich, Kazimir.” Grove Art Online, accessed on February 19th, 2018. http://www.oxfordartonline.com/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000053504.
Holtham, Susan, and Fiontan Moran. “Five Ways to Look at Malevich’s Black Square.” Tate, August 18th, 2014,http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/five-ways-look-Malevich-Black-Square.
Milner, John. “Suprematism.” Grove Art Online, accessed on February 18th, 2018. http://www.oxfordartonline.com/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000082379.