Tag Archives: Malevich

He might have used the N-word, but he wasn’t racist!

The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow announced today they x-rayed the original Black Square by Malevich and discovered two colour compositions they called proto-suprematist beneath the Square itself plus some text. The compositions seem to be quite suprematist but the research team refers to them as proto-suprematist because suprematism had not yet been invented by Malevich. While some art historians may consider it awkward, it’s a trifling matter. It’s the text that is important, and potentially quite embarrassing. 

Two things that you must know about the original Black Square are that it is not a square and it is not made with black pigment. Your eyes are fooling your perceptions that fool your mind that fools your response, and then you say “I could paint a square, couldn’t I?” No, actually you couldn’t, so let’s skip the discussion of whether the Black Square should be getting so much attention. It’s one of the most famous paintings in history, and that’s a fact.

To the text now.

The gallery said they couldn’t yet read the whole of it. First, their X-Ray machine seems to have been confounded by all the layers of different pigments in the Black Square, and second, Malevich had a terrible hand when it came to writing.

They deciphered the first word, and it is “Battle”.

Logic now tells the researchers it is going to turn out as “The Battle of the Negroes in the deep dark cave at night” which is an obvious reference to the eponymous work by Alphonse Allais (1893) who painted a simple black rectangle (indeed it was a perfect rectangle painted with perfect black pigment, and thus failed to become an artistic breakthrough).

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So, art lovers, critics, curators, and artists are asking each other a simple question: What do we have now instead of the Great Black Square which Malevich claimed to had painted in a trance under the influence of cosmic forces that were guiding his hand?

Does the new discovery send decades of critical thinking down the drain, and innumerable volumes of art history books in the dust bin? Did Malevich simply paint over something he didn’t want to show? Then he added a joking tagline, and art critics went bananas rushing to explain its deep meaning. Was it all a big fat case of over-interpretation?

Well, perhaps not. I have a theory.

I think, we have a successful attempt to cover a colourful suprematist composition (that Malevich thought of as a failure for some reason) with paint in a way that the colours would not show through the surface when it dries up. You can’t just over-paint red with black and expect the black to stay black, you know. So Malevich had to invent a certain mixture of colours that will dry up as black at the end but without the use of the black paint. It is also possible he intended the colour composition to be painted over, except that why would he say it was some divine intervention?

And, let’s not forget it, he chose NOT to make it a perfect square. After all, he might have had a creative revelation along the way.

Of course, it is just a theory.

The Tretyakov Gallery promises a new book on the Black Square this year, and we will see if Malevich used the N-word or not. But something tells me my theory can be the right one. A lot of great things in human history have been created out of necessity. Perhaps, the Black Square is just one of them. 

There’s only one thing that disturbs me. What if some years later some memoirs of a Malevich friend will surface up in which his buddy would casually remark about the drunken state of Kazimir when he was painting the Black Square. That would really kill the imperfect square thing. That would be really embarrassing.

PS Chagall is in the works, but there are some headlines I can’t skip. 

GOOD ARTISTS END CONFLICTS IN ART

It was the steam and heat that fueled their disagreement on art. He stormed out of the sauna, to cool out in the snow. The ice hole in the lake was emitting the blackness of winter. With a Wicked Witch laugh, she jeered at him, “Jump, Kazimir!”

Suprematism was born.


This is a 50-word story inspired by the Daily Prompt, and, of course, the Black Square, to while away the time left until the Last Judgement post finally hits the press.

Can you help out an artist?

Visual arts are struggling through a crisis of ideas. The crisis is not the first one, obviously, but this time there’s a bit less hope that painting will survive, as there seem to be no crazy geniuses to push anything or anyone forward. No matisses, no picassos, no bacons, rothkos or pollocks. It seems everything has been invented, tried and tested, and artworks we see today are more or less a repetition or a combination of past tricks and treats.  

Of course, I have not seen everything. If there’s a sleeping innovative genius you’re aware of, drop me a link, please.

Most bad artist satisfy themselves with mimicking some great artist of the past. Most mediocre artists go for mixing a few great artists of the past into their own “unique” manner.  Today, I want to share paintings of a talented Russian artist (a little bit poisoned by ideology) who COULD DO SO MUCH BETTER.

I would love to hear your suggestions on what he could do better. The artist does not know about this blog, and I will pass your ideas on to him via a gallerist who is keen to invest into the guy’s promotion.

Let’s call the artist Boris, just like the London’s mayor.

What happens when you mix, stir and shake Malevich, Malyavin and a patchwork quilt?

These are the ingredients:

(a) Kazimir Malevich, who believed in the supremacy of colour

Malevich, Women in the Field

(b) Filipp Malyavin, who made a Russian peasant woman the icon of life:

Filipp Malyavin, The Whirlwind, 1906

Actually, it is a huge work that can’t be appreciated in a small format. So, let’s get a closeup on one of the whirlwinding ladies:

Malyavin, The Whirlwind, a fragment

(c) patchwork quilt

Now, if you mix (a), (b), and (c), you get a painting by Boris:

The Girl with a Sheaf

Why is Boris good?

  • Bold pure colours
  • Unusual, striking colour combinations
  • Nicely timed rhythm

The three “ingredients” energize viewers and are simply pleasant to watch.

In some paintings the artist juxtaposes forms to create a conflict from the paradoxical combination:

The Birch in a Rye Field

A gallerist may say Boris’ manner is recognisable, which is good for sales. Branding in the art world is just as important as in TV adverts.

What is not so good about Boris?

Boris’ ideology is dubious. Russia is not a fairytale bird with an olive branch orthodox cross in its beak:

The Soul of Russia

The soul of Russia is much more controvercial, and more interesting as well. It has a dark side too. Without showing the dark side, it is not possible to show the bright side convincingly. Boris’ paintings do not show the true Russia but are propaganda posters for a Russian patriot.

Boris also has a problem in the story-variety department. Once you’ve seen a few works, you get the impression you can’t discover anything new.

Good can come out of bad? 

Boris welds together the Orthodox Christianity and Slavic paganism with artistic avant garde (well, dated back to the early 20th c.). This is an unusual mix, at least in today’s Russia.

Now, there’s a gallery of Boris’ work to walk through.

Once you’ve gone through it, please, tell me which innovation or direction you can suggest for Boris to explore, follow, develop? 

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BRIBING THE DEMONS

‘Hello, Luke! I feel the power is strong in you, fly boy.’

Luke just landed on a cloud. He shaped a white fluffy chair out of it with a few Jedi-like gestures before replying.

‘You know, Peter,’ said St.Luke, making himself comfortable in his cloudy chaise longue, ‘this joke begins getting on my nerves. I’ve arranged for five more Star Wars movies to be filmed, but you stick to the 1977 line. That’s not fair’.

‘Life’s not fair,’ said St.Peter with a wink. ‘That’s what I keep telling people who knock on the Gate. Speaking of which, I need to ask you something, as, you know, the guardian angel of artists.’

‘It is the patron saint, Peter, not a guardian angel. Any more jokes you’d like to share now? ‘Cause I am truly busy, my drawing class begins in a minute, and I had to smuggle a truckload of Coke to bribe the demons to have Michelangelo out of Hell for 30 minutes to head it. I can’t have it wasted.’

‘Luke, do you remember why I sent Michelangelo down to Hell in the first place?’

‘He killed someone, didn’t he?’

‘Oh, no. It was Michelangelo Merisi, or Caravaggio, who did. Your Michelangelo almost killed a few sensitive ladies with his foul smell (and we made sure the demon that convinced him bathing was bad for health never left Hell or Mongolian steppes again), but we don’t send souls to Hell for trying. It was Pride. He wanted to create art that would live forever, banish death and make him equal to God. We’ve been sending ambitious people down since the Tower of Babel. Man ain’t no God, Luke. So, can you put away your painterly ambitions for a moment? It’s important.’

St.Luke watched St.Peter with the hopelessness of a shored-up whale that wanted to climb out to evolve but helpful people were pushing it back to the ocean again.

‘Peter,’ he said, ‘what art advice do you want from me then? Shoot it out.’

‘Oh, thank you, Luke. There’s that case of Malevich on my doorstep right now. He’s been in Purgatory since 1935 and now is the time…’

‘I thought Malevich was a Jew and we stopped handling Jews two thousand years ago, didn’t we?’ murmured St.Luke.

‘Who the heck is the patron saint of artists?’ Peter sounded sincerely surprised, ‘Malevich was Polish. Catholic Polish.’

‘Oh’

‘So I need to know if Malevich qualifies as a creator of Great Art, to decide what to do with him’.

‘Yes, he does, even if it sends him to Hell. He did the Black Square, and that is a great piece of great art alone’.

blacksquare

‘Luke, a kid could do it. I could do it on my iPad in seconds’.

‘Peter, you couldn’t. It is not a square actually. None of the sides of the black box is parallel to the opposite side or to any of the picture sides. There’s no black paint either. It is a mixture of colours that produces something your brain interprets as black.’

‘Why is it called the Black Square then?!’

‘Because people see it as a black square even though it is neither square nor black!’, said St.Luke in desperation.

‘Yeah, I got that far, but I still miss the point of this, hmm, mystification’.

‘Malevich created a dynamic and living symbol out of something that looks as a solid, fixed, unmoving and unmovable object’.

‘Why would he do it, if all you can see is just a black square?’

‘Oh, but here is the trick. People with poor imagination see a black square, but connoisseurs thinking outside the box can see a multi-coloured cube in this painting.’

‘Luke, your connoisseurs thinking outside the box are usually the ones whose thinking inside the box is best described by a diagnosis that makes it impossible for them to get a driving license’.

‘Peter, do you remember the times when veils were all the rage among women?’

‘Sure I do – I am still getting a few fresh souls a week who keep blinking and murmuring, “oh, now I know what’s behind the veil”.

‘Well, think of this black square as a veil. People who are curious enough to see behind it, would see white behind black, life behind death, volume behind flatness. They would be the ones to whom universe secrets are revealed’

‘Luke, I tell you what. I don’t think this is great art, I think this is – as you said – a trick. As he’s not a great artist, the Tower of Babel precedent doesn’t work. Magicians are welcome here as long as they stick to tricks and stay away from real magic. So, he gets transferred to Paradise this very moment!’

‘Oh,’ said St.Luke, ‘Thank you! I think this is the right thing to do, even though I strongly disagree with you on his greatness.’

‘Luke, you can have Malevich now as your teacher, class leader, or course director. No more sinful Coke smuggling! I’ll be sending Michelangelo back then, I assume?’

There was that awkward moment of silence when the clapping of hands is expected but no one cheers up.

St.Luke was whipping up his cloud chair into a growing Rococo sofa.

St.Peter wouldn’t leave.

Blast.

St.Luke, finally, looked up, “I’ll stick to Michelangelo, Peter, thank you.’

The Rococo sofa collapsed back into a chair of reasonable proportion.

‘And, Peter, next time a conceptual contemporary artist turns up, just let them in.’

‘So, no Babel Tower discussions for the next 50 years, flyboy?’, said St.Peter with mock disappointment.

‘No, and there’s a new Star Wars movie in the making. I hope you get to pick up another line!’

**********************

It’s the Weekly Writing Prompt that asked for a dialogue bringing to life the blog’s topic that made me write it. There are about 10 other points I could make to support Malevich greatness, but I decided to save them for later. Luke didn’t want to miss his lesson.