Robert Chandler will talk about Malevich
6th August 2014
Pushkin House, 5A Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1A 2TA,
2 Sept, 7.30 pm
Robert Chandler will talk about Malevich’s career as a whole, also pointing out a few parallels between him and the writer Andrey Platonov.
More Than a Black Square: the art of Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935)
There has never been a better time to look at the paintings of Kazimir Malevich, one of the boldest innovators in twentieth-century art. The exhibition of his work now at London’s Tate Modern is the most comprehensive ever. Malevich is known, above all, for his “Black Square” (1915) and the brilliantly colored geometric paintings he termed Suprematist. We now have the chance to see that he created equally great work in many other styles.
Malevich’s Fauve paintings of 1910-11 remain startling. “The Bather”, perhaps a direct response to Matisse’s “La Danse”, can be seen as an image of Malevich himself. A naked figure, with large red hands and two right feet, also large and red, is about to fling himself into unknown waters; the only visible facial feature is an eye.
Malevich then moved through styles he named Cubo-Futurist and Alogist (a Russian version of Dadaism) and on to Suprematism. After abandoning painting in 1922 to devote himself to teaching and theory, he returned to figurative work. His last paintings, from 1928 until his death from cancer in 1935, are as varied as his earlier work. The stark drawings of the Second Peasant Cycle, with their black or red crosses and their crucified figures, are a profound response – like Andrey Platonov’s The Foundation Pit – to the horror of Collectivisation. And, between 1933 and 1935 Malevich painted portraits of his friends and family.
As Malevich’s earlier work is remarkable for its energy, so these realistic late portraits are remarkable for their humanity. The delicate grey eyes of his wife see clearly and are clearly seen. Unlike the staring, visionary eyes characteristic of the earlier work, these eyes are alert to the world of our everyday lives. Once again there is a parallel between Malevich and Platonov.
Between 1937 and 1946 Platonov wrote three of the greatest love stories in Russian literature; the heroine of one is named “Afrodita” and the heroine of both the other stories is named “Lyubov” – the Russian for “love”. Malevich’s paintings of his wife deserve a place alongside these stories; they too are fully realized embodiments, at a time of State terror, of clear-eyed love.
There is an expanded version of the above, with illustrations, here: