Kazimir Malevich

Kazimir Malevich was a very influential Russian painter and designer who founded his own art movement, Suprematism, in the early twentienth century. The first Suprematist works were shown in St. Petersburg in 1915.

In his Suprematist paintings Malevich developed a vocabulary of simple geometric forms such as squares, rectangles, circles and lines. He arranged these against a light-coloured ground to create compositions which were often very complex. One of his aims was to free painting from the need to represent the natural world as it had done for many years. He believed that only when painting had achieved this could it be considered a truly creative act.

Suprematist Painting (1916)

Some of Malevich's Suprematist paintings were very simple, consisting of one or more geometric shapes painted on a light-coloured ground. Others, as in this example, were far more complex. Malevich's colour palette is more varied than Mondrian's, but he still tends to use a limited amount of different colours in each work.

Malevich approaches the suggestion of space differently from artists who went before him. Instead of suggesting depth with traditional perspective, his forms seem to float within the space of the picture plane, with some isolated shapes seeming nearer to the viewer than others. Certain shapes are clearly painted so they appear behind others when they overlap.

In the works of Mondrian and Albers, all the visual elements were either horizontal or vertical, parallel with the edge of the canvas. Malevich paints his shapes at many varying angles, giving a very different feel to his compositions.

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Malevich wanted his work to be very different to anything that had been done before, and with his paintings was trying to create a new form of language, with its own vocabulary of geometric forms. He was very interested in the different ways the shapes related to each other on the canvas.