Freshfrom showing the most visited exhibition in its history (a unique journey into Matisse’screativity) Tate Modern now offers another fascinating and extraordinary show.This time, the Art gallery presents a fresh insight into the work of KazimirMalevich, founder of the Suprematism movement. Best known for his abstract art,Malevich walked a turbulent career path. At Tate the paintings are displayed ina chronological order which helps visitorsunderstand how Malevich’s thinking and art changed throughout his life.

Bornto Polish parents in 1879 in Kiev, Malevich was absorbed by the arts from a veryyoung age. Influenced by Monet, Cezanne and French Impressionism, his earlypaintings focused on Russian subjects and settings, and particularly on theimage of peasants. Intense colours and expressive brushwork, the subject matter depicted is straightforward –but even back then Malevich began to consider the work of art as an independentcreation rather than a mere imitation of reality.

Walking through the rooms is like watching anartist grow and develop: from symbolism to cubism and abstractism, Malevichexplored a variety of styles. Cubo-futurism was the nextstage of his career, and paintings such as Head ofa Peasant Girl and Morning in the Village after Snowstorm perfectlycombine the dynamism of Cubism with Italian Futurism.

As the exhibition shows, soon Malevich startedto develop the idea of Suprematism. This new art movement was purely aesthetic,concerned only with geometric forms and thus completely free from theconstraints of figurative painting. At the origin of Suprematism was the Futuristopera Victory over the Sun written byKrunchenykh and for which Malevich designed the sets and costumes in 1913. The group’srevolutionary treatment of language, the idea of words without meaning is whatencouraged Malevich to move into abstraction. For Malevich, art shouldin fact transcend subject matter and the purity of shape and colour should insteadreign “supreme” over the image.

The iconic painting of the twentieth century Black Square represented the starting point for this new approach to art. Pivotalpiece of the whole exhibition and Malevich’s most radical work, Black Square is exactly what its titlesuggest: a square painted in black within a white border. Though simple inform, the painting is complex in meaning: a representation of absence andpresence, chaos and order together, it is a piece that questions the meaning ofart itself.

Interesestingly, BlackSquare was painted in 1915 but Malevich dated it to 1913 because hebelieved that the date should refer to the idea for the painting rather thanits execution. Precisely in December 1915 the artist launched Suprematism with 'The Last Exhibition of Future Painting 0.10', held in Petrograd. Tate assemblesnine of the twelve paintings and follows the layout of the original exhibition.Black Square is thus placed in theupper corner, the position traditionally occupied by an icon in Orthodox homes.The atmosphere in the room is unique: in an extraordinary vortexof pure energy and creativity, visitors can almost hear Malevich saying “Suprematismis the new beginning of a new culture…our world of art has become new, non- objective,pure”.

The Russian revolution coincided with Malevich’sabandonment of painting. As he himself declared, “painting died, like the oldregime, because it was an organic part of it”. Once again, Malevichdemonstrated his versatility by becoming a teacher and eagerly promoting theprinciples of Suprematism in his lessons. His teaching charts and materials areso beautiful they have a room here all to themselves.

Malevich only returned to painting in the late20s, and the majority of these last paintings are rural scenes and peasants. These last years were difficult for Malevich: accused ofespionage, he was arrested for a short period in 1930 and died of cancer soonafter. This is probably why his last realistic paintings are more disturbing andevoke a feeling of longing, suffering and despair.

Beautifully curated, the exhibition is the first major retrospectiveof the Russian artist work for almost 25 years. It commemorates one of the mosttalented, diverse and complete artist of the twentieth century. By discovering,experimenting and challenging art, Malevich developed his own abstract style thatpaved the way for many generations of later artists. Suprematism was truly “thebeginning of a new culture” - and it still feels as modern and revolutionary asit did at the time.

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