Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Art Appreciation Wednesday - Kazimir Malevich

The great Russian painter Malevich (1878-1935) was an artistic genius and poineer in many ways who helped give birth to multiple genres and strains of modern art.

By way of introduction to this incredible artist, I present to you one of his most excellent works, Black Square (Oil on Canvass: 1915).




In this instance, the artist has applied black paint to a square-ish canvass. In the corners, you will find black paint and yet interestingly (and most innovatively) the central section of the painting features more black paint. I have prepared a detail image (below), focussing on the upper section of the piece where we can see the black paint in finer view.


(Black Square, detail)

Interpretations on the meaning of this amazing work vary from critic to critic, generation to generation, and the artist himself muttered something about art being something that owes us nothing, but one thing we can say with certainty is that it is black and it always will be black. I see it is a black work of art. It is the old black, and the old black will perennially be the new black (except for 1983 when it was grey) and for this reason the artwork will maintain relevence for countless millenia.

1915 was a watershed year for Malevich and his best works were produced in this, the second year of the great war. Here I present another of his works, Black Circle (1915).



A cursory glance would suggest that this piece is in many ways similar to Black Square, but if you stare it long enough you will notice that in this ground-breaking work, the shape of the 'black' is circular, not square. It surprises and bewilders on several levels. Not only that, the black circle is off-centre which adds to the sense of wonderment. Inspired by Ouspensky who spoke of "a fourth dimension beyond the three to which our ordinary senses have access" Malevich proceeded to develop a stream of art self-called 'Suprematism' that presented geometric patterns in varying guises.

The circular figure represents a 'circle' and the 'black' paint which the artist uses is black, thus cleverly arriving at the title 'Black Circle'.

Black Circle is surely the Magnum Opus of this experimental artform that still resonates today. Before Suprematism we were forced to endure portraits, landscapes and still-lifes that spoke volumes and told incredible stories and inspired great works of music and literature. Suprematism, however, opened up the doors for works such as John Cage's 'Silence' and the Commonwealth Bank logo.

Just like dreams, interpretation is open, buit for the record, I interpret the Suprematism works of Malevich as being both black, and with shape.

I would be interested in your interpretations.

40 comments:

Puss In Boots said...

Bahahahahaha!

Mad Cat Lady said...

You are awesome.

Perseus said...

Puss - It was a homage to your comment in the previous thread.

MCL - I may be awesome, but I suspect Obtuse and/or Melba will beat my head in.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I quite like it.

Perseus said...

The brilliance of the works Ramon, is that whether you look at it closely or from a distance, the form remains constant. No matter what your vantage point, it's always a circle, which is reassuring.

Renoir has nothing on Malevich.

Puss In Boots said...

I know, and it made me heart you so much more.

Now all you need is to develop an irrational hatred for beans, and we're set.

Melba said...

No, it's funny Perseus. Why did you think I'd be angry though?

Perseus said...

Puss: NEVER! Love beans. The long stringy green ones that you hate so much, plus red kidney beans, baked beans and my personal favourite, broad beans.

Melba: Well I didn't think you'd hate me, but I though you might at least give me a corky for being a smart alec. Teeth dreams are about teeth / black circle is a black circle.

Melba said...

I did give you a corky. Didn't you feel it?

RandomGit said...

See I thought you were taking the piss, until you mentioned the circle, the one that is black that is, is off centre. Not many people can pick up on such subtle interplays between emotion, social reflection and the inherent cosmological simplicity of the canvas.

What most Critics fail to realise, however, that the displacement is in the northwest sector. Long associated with cultural alignment to polar extremes in elightened societies, it appears a touch of the occult has entered the scene. This tells us much more about the artist, and we as the viewer, and what physical effect we have on the peice merely by him conveying it and we seeing it.

And if you made it this far without preparing a response along the lines of "stop talking shit" then congratulations, you're an art wanker.

Puss In Boots said...

Reminds me of John Malkovich's triangle art in Art School Confidential.

Perseus said...

Northwest? You have to turn the roadmaps upside down don't you?

Mr E Discharge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr E Discharge said...

To me, the detail image just screams "Nolan".

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

To me, the detail image just screams "Nolan Sisters".

Leilani said...

I feel the black circle is following me around the room.

squib said...

I have a postcard of a Malevich piece (which I quite like) called 'Red square: Painterly realism of a peasant woman in two dimensions'. It's here

Kettle said...

Perseus, your post was eerily reminiscent of the descriptions next to each work in the Guggenheim in Venice. I spent more time there reading the 800-word essays next to each 'painting' than I did looking at the black squares, black squares on black circles, white squares on white nimbi, and red hexagonals on red decahedrons (wholly overlaid by red).

Extraordinary stuff.

Kettle said...

PS Leilani, the black circle is following you! It's following me too! Run!

Lewd Bob said...

Don't blame the artist, blame the cads who think it means something. Unless the artist said it means something. But then, even if he did, doesn't mean it means something to anybody else.

What if the circle was yellow?

By the way, piss funny Perseus.

Kettle said...

I'm with you, Bob. I've been thinking lately that the best art is that which isn't made for anyone and, bloody hell, perhaps not shown to anyone? (well, not on a large scale for profit anyway).

I don't mean to sound flippant; I wonder whether the desire for an audience (as an artist) should disqualify you from being an artist in the same way that wanting to be a politician (powerful, public) should disqualify you from being a politician.

On the other hand, what's the point of art if no-one sees it?

Leilani said...

Kettle, I think we'll both be dreaming about black circles chasing us tonight. If only I knew what it meant.

Kettle said...

Perhaps I can help with the interpretation, Leilani, if the good (read: crazy) folk at the dream interpretation site I looked at can be relied upon.

While there's no mention of black circles or Malevich or being chased by anything in their dream dictionary, I'm happy to report the following about circles (in and of themselves):

"A perfectly drawn circle in your dream is a prediction of many good things to come, and prosperity beyond measure. If the circle is wobbly, or appears to be a child's drawing, you will still reach your goals but you will have troubles on the way to it. If the circle is broken, it denotes failed marriages."

So as our dreams with their perfectly round, unbroken (albeit black and menacing?) circles decree it our marriages will be long and successful whether we are or are not married, and good things may or may not happen to us sometime in the future or not at all. Does that sound about right to you?

Leilani said...

Kettle, wow, that is so insightful. Not to mention: SPOT ON. (The circle may indeed be dark and meacing but I refuse to let it dampen my enthusiasm for a shit pun.)

I feel that from that straightforward interpretation my future may, or may not be, crystal clear.

After staring at the circle for some time (albeit over my shoulder as it followed me around the room), I am wondering if the circle really represents a giant arsehole?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Kettle, can you find out what it means when you dream you are sitting around reading Marx's 1875'Critique Of The Gotha program' when a naked Julia Gillard comes in and says, "Rudd's gone and I'm taking over, and I want you to be my deputy, but first of all, congratulations on scoring that ton in the Boxing Day test. Can I have a beer?"

Kettle said...

Ramon it means if your daylight experiences match your dreams then you're living the dream, man.

Kettle said...

PS Leilani I laughed my arse off at your last sentence; the question mark at the end gave the whole thing a delightful piquancy. Gold.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

If EMS is at the cricket, I hope she holds up a sign for the television cameras.

Something tasteful like "Ponting's a cunt".

wari lasi said...

You're a weird mob.

I started reading and thought, "This is very un-Puss". Until I realised of course it wasn't her. Not that your art appreciation pieces aren't gripping reading Puss! This was just funnier.

Nice work Perseus.

And RG, what do you do for a crust? I see a great career for you in writing that shit you read on wine bottle labels. Made me laugh as much as Pers' post.

I'm about to take Emma to the dentist to have a tooth pulled. I needed some light relief before that.

obtuse-a said...

Team Malevich:

1915. Russia. Great War, famine, the black ink of censorship, oppression, politics, death, death, death.

Can you blame Malevich for not wanting to paint purty pictures of sexy nude ladies and romantic vistas? Maybe all the luscious ladies were dead, and the tranquil countryside was bombed to hell.

Stalin soon put a stop to all of that crazy geometric reduction, with Soviet Realism. So artists were 'encouraged' to create pictures that were much easier to comprehend, and could inspire patriotism.

I can't believe what a bunch of squares you all are.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Hey!

I said I liked it.

And so did Squib!

Perseus said...

Obtuse-A... I put it to you that it is even squarer to appreciate Malevich.

I am the black circle, and you are the square!

*

It's one thing I have to hand to Stalin: he didn't take any shit from Geometric Reductionists.

*

Ponting may be a cunt... he's also 45 not out, and our only hope. Oh, hang on. We're playing Pakistan - they'll fuck it up somehow.

Puss In Boots said...

Even in such circumstances, Obtuse-A, you'd think he could come up with something slightly more imaginative than just painting black shapes. For example, Goya's black paintings.

No offence taken, Wari. I know I'm not funny.

eat my shorts said...

Circles are all well and good, but the dodecahedron better portrays the condition of modern humanity.

If EMS is at the cricket, I hope she holds up a sign for the television cameras.

Something tasteful like "Ponting's a cunt".


The problem with that would be that Bellereive is on the other side of the river, which is where the bogans live. I wouldn't make it out alive.

I don't think anyone I know is actually going to the cricket, so neither am I. I am going to the tennis at Moorilla tomorrow though.

WitchOne said...

Excuuuuuse me EMS. The eastern shore is not where the bogans live. That's Clarendon Vale and Rokeby (yes they're eastern shore suburbs but they aren't the entire shore).

Better than bloody Bridgewater, New Norfolk and Granton (or even West Hobart).

As for Goya, I'm going to have friggin' nightmares! Give me a black circle square and I can write it off as a bored, but talented 3 year old.

Got the CD GOT THE CD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

eat my shorts said...

Excuuuuuse me EMS. The eastern shore is not where the bogans live.

Lies.

All lies.

Mad Cat Lady said...

how appropriate
http://pencilandpipette.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/some-seriously-black-stuff-is-the-new-black/

WitchOne said...

EMS, you madam, are a river snob

eat my shorts said...

Hell yes.

eat my shorts said...

Little less of the madam though, if you don't mind, old girl.