When I enjoy the work of other artists, I’m curious as to what they are trying to express. Looking at art always makes me feel something. It stirs up my emotions and thoughts. So I’m eager to see if what I feel is what the artist was hoping to express.
Cosmos by Kazimir Malevich, 1917. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Russian abstract painter and costume designer Kazimir Malevich. His work really fascinated me, initially because his experience as a costume designer influenced his later path as a painter. So, I started to look at his artwork.
Mystical Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) by Kazimir Malevich, c. 1920-7. Image courtesy of Malevich Paintings.
Malevich is most known for starting the art movement Suprematism. He conceived the idea of Suprematism around 1913, which focuses on basic geometric forms painted in a limited range of colors. Malevich believed that the true power of art was it’s ability to evoke emotion in the viewer. By using simple geometric forms, there was no way for political or social meanings to be imparted on the work of art. I loved the ideas behind his work. He saw painting as a way to make people feel something that could not be manipulated or placed out of context.
Mystical Religious Rotation of Shapes by Kazimir Malevich. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.
Lucky for me, Malevich wrote a manifesto on what his artwork was trying to make people feel. He traveled to Berlin in the 1920s to exhibit his work and network with the faculty at Bauhaus. (New to my site? You should read my previous posts on the Bauhaus.) His manifesto, The Non-Obective World, was published as book 11 in the series Die Gegenstandslose Welt. (A friend told me this title translates to something like “a spirit without products” or “the spirit of the abstract”)
NYPL had a copy of The Non-Objective World, and I’m reading it now. The introduction was really powerful. It explains that, according to Malevich, art is eternally powerful because it originates from a feeling. Artists are inspired to create something because of an almost mystical experience. The urge to make something and share it with others is what makes an art object beautiful.
He insisted that art and the feelings which generate it are more basic and meaningful than religious beliefs and political conceptions. Religions and the state, in the past, employed art as a means to further their aim. The usefulness of works of technology is of short-lived but art endures forever. If humanity is to achieve a real and absolute order this must be founded on eternal values, that is, on art.