See through the world


From the FT:

How do you stage an exhibition of a painter who, within a few years of launching his career, announced that “painting is long obsolete and the painter himself a prejudice of the past”? Since it opened, Tate Modern has sought to mount a Kazimir Malevich retrospective. No painter is a more significant influence on the 20th-century trajectory – abstraction, minimalism, conceptualism – that the gallery strives to define. At the same time, none is more elusive, mysterious, unpredict­able or contradictory.

Dispensing with imagery, colour or composition, “Black Square”, now 99 years old, dismantled painting’s historic parameters. Malevich intended it as an avant-garde icon, superseding Russian Orthodox icons, and so it became. But this masterpiece is too fragile to leave Moscow, and many of the suprematist canvases launched with it – fiercely purist designs in black, white and unmixed primary colours that declared the end of pictorial representation – are little known in the west. In Russia, Malevich was not exhibited between his death in 1935 and 1988; only in the last two decades have his experiments and elaboration of what he called “the zero of form” been fully explored.