Malevich belongs to a select group of artist-philosophers (or perhaps philosopher-artists). While other artists have mused on the creative process, Malevich tried to create a new mystical philosophy of art and existence, like the composer Scriabin. Whether he succeeded or not is still debated, but there is no question about the status of his art. Malevich was part of the lively Russian avant-garde scene at the beginning of the last century, that took Cubism and Futurism as starting points for a non-figurative art. Malevich emphasised that the process of creation of his (in)famous “Black Square” was spontaneous and even unexpected—he did not eat or sleep for a week beforehand. Although Suprematism has often been linked to the Russian revolution, Malevich was discussing many similar ideas right from the beginning of the century. He was in fact appropriating the traditions of icon painting to create a new art. All the motifs that he returned to often—square, cross, circle (right, “Plane in rotation”)—featured heavily in icons, especially in the clothes of the saints. In his series of paintings of Russian peasants, Malevich was deliberately emphasising their mythical and iconic status. This exhibition (18 January-27 April) has been organised by the Menil Foundation, Houston and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York and will travel to those two cities afterwards.
Originally appeared in TheArt Newspaper as 'Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism'