Illustrated companion

The first Suprematist paintings were exhibited in December 1915 in St Petersburg (now Leningrad) at an exhibition titled '0.10'. The exhibition included thirty-five abstract paintings by Malevich, among them and first on the list of his work in the catalogue, was 'Black Square', the famous painting of a black square on a square white ground, now in the Russian Museum, Leningrad.

Malevich began to develop the idea of Suprematism a year or so before this, and in his book The Non-Objective World, published in 1927, he wrote: 'In the year 1913, trying desperately to free art from the dead weight of the real world, I took refuge in the form of the square.' He continued, 'To the Suprematist the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such ... Art no longer wants to serve the State and Church, it no longer wishes to illuminate the history of manners, it wants to have nothing further to do with the object, as such and believes that it can exist in and for itself without "things" ... the black square on the white field was the first form in which non-objective feeling came to be expressed; the square = feeling, the white field = the void beyond this feeling'.

The 'Black Square' remained for Malevich a ground breaking statement of his new art of pure feeling, but it appears that its static quality did not satisfy him and in 1915-16 he moved rapidly to what he called 'dynamic' Suprematism. Malevich, like all the pre-World War I Russian avant-garde was strongly influenced by Futurism as well as Cubism. His move to an abstract 'dynamism' appears to be an attempt to express the Futurist utopian vision of the modern city and modern technology in an abstract form. In The Non-Objective World he wrote '... the art of Cubism and Suprematism is to be looked upon as the art of the industrial, taut environment.' This environment he said '... has been produced by the latest achievements of technology, and especially of aviation, so that one could also refer to Suprematism as "aeronautical". The culture of Suprematism can manifest itself in two different ways, namely as dynamic Suprematism ... or as static Suprematism ...' In the light of this, 'Dynamic Suprematism' can perhaps be viewed as an attempt by Malevich to evoke the forms and energy of the modern technological world.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.145