Art Speak 101: Suprematism

Posted in Inside Scoop by Isabel Larner on 01st August 2014

This week in Art Speak, we celebrate the opening of the Malevich exhibition at Tate Modern by looking back to the short-lived but infliuential movement that he initiated: suprematism.
Malevich's Black Square

Black Square

Kazimir Malevich

Suprematism In A Nutshell
Using primarily basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, the term suprematism refers to the ‘supremacy of pure feeling or perception’ rather than visual depiction of objects.
Famous artists Associated With The Movement
Kazimir Malevich, Anna Kagan,  Il’ya Chashnik, Nikolay Suetin, Vera Yermolayeva and Lev Yudin
The History of Suprematism
Suprematism was founded by Kazimir Malevich, a Ukrainian painter who pioneered abstract geometric art. Anti-materialist, anti-utilitarian and heavily inspired by Russian Formalism, the movement was one of the most progressive developments in abstract art, focussing its energies on feeling, perception, composition and stripping art down to its bare essentials. This eventually led Malevich to the use of the most basic colours (if any at all) and geometric shapes.
Key Ideas
  • The use of abstract was rooted in a search for the 'zero degree' painting: finding the point at which the medium could reach before it would cease to be 'art'. Thus, Suprematism was characterised by very basic shapes and motifs, as these best reflected the flat planes of the canvas on which they painted. This eventually whittled down to the square, circle and cross. Texture also thus became and important part of the painting, with the texture from the paint on the canvas being an essential part of the medium. 
  • Suprematism was heavily influenced by Russian Formalism, a highly influential school of literary critics. They argued that language is not so obviously linked to the words they denote. Similarly, it was thought that art did not so obviously depict the world, and could instead be used to make us see the world in a new way - as something strange and absurd. Thus Suprematist art works remove the real world by disconnecting themselves from depicting it, and leave the viewer to think on what can be thought of the world as reflected by the images in from of them. For example, the seemingly simple but iconic Black Square seen above: Malevich said that the feeling we get from witnessing the constrast of black on white was the essence of art. 
Black and White Square and Circle

Black and White Square and Circle

Henry Garfit


12 x 12 Pure12 X 12 Pure

Slavomir Zombek


In SuspensionIn Suspension

Hetty Haxworth


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