Kasimir Severinovich Malevich
1879 - 1935


Very important to the work of Irwin and Laibach, right from the beginning Tomaz Hostnik adopted the Malevich cross as a Laibach icon. Overall his influence in abstract art was far reaching in the art world; his work was pioneering but unfortunately suffered under the Soviet regime's disregard for modern art.

Kasimir Severinovich Malevich, born near Kiev, Ukraine on February 26th in 1879. In 1903 he entered the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture having earlier trained at the Kiev Drawing School. The Modernist style soon became his main focus and began experimenting with the various styles, eventually taking a strong interest in Cubism and its Italian offshoot Futurism. He participated in the avant-garde exhibitions joining up with the Moscow Artist's Association, which also featured Vasily Kandinsky and Mikhail Larionov. He broke from the group in 1912 after the exhibition 'Donkey's Tail' where he presented neo-primitivist paintings of peasants. Meanwhile he shifted from working with established modernist styles to developing his own unique style and ultimately a new form of art. In 1913 he began creating abstract geometric patterns in style he called Suprematism - where art could be free from the burden of the object. The painting Black square delivers a simplified example. In the same year he teamed up with composer Mikhail Matiushin and writer Alexei Kruchenykh to draft a manifesto for the First Futurist Congress. They also worked on the opera 'Victory Over the Sun', Malevich designing the sets and costumes. May have inspired the title for the Laibach video 'Pobjeda Pod Suncem -Victory Under the Sun'.


Malevich continued to develop his new form of art, gradually adding more geometric shapes and expanding the colour palette to produced more complex works. The aim was not concentrated on the conscious experience of looking at the painting but also hoped to delve into the unconscious as well. Looking beyond the external world as a basis for the art, instead uses objects, shapes and colour to invoke these experiences, inevitably a certain level of tuning in is required. He exhibited the Suprematist works for the first time at '0.10: The Last Futurist Exhibition' which took place in St. Petersburg in December 1915. This exhibition has since been credited in launching two new styles 'Constructivism' along with 'Suprematism', which dominated art in Russia including image design, architecture and theatre until Socialist Realism was forcibly introduced.


A number of experts have been caught out putting Malevich's painting upside down.


Initially following the Russian Revolution; Malevich along with other established artists where encouraged and offered good teaching or administrative posts. Malevich took up a teaching post with the Vitebsk Popular Art School in 1919 and soon became its director. Malevich formed the Suprematist art group 'Unovis - Establishers of the New Art', with his students from Vitebsk. Just before he began teaching, he had felt he had taken Suprematism as far as it could go after the 'White on White' paintings and began working with other styles such as Constructivism and concentrating on teaching and writing. Suprematism never the less continued and its popularity remained strong as other artists such as the constructivist artist Lissitzky (who was a colleague of Malevich's at Vitebsk and also in Unovis) and others who were inspired developed the style. Malevich himself did paint again in the Suprematist style; the 'Black Cross' painting in 1923 - the source of the Laibach cross.


Vitebsk Popular Art School - Kazimir standing right

Malevich left Vitebsk in 1922 and moved to Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg and soon to be Leningrad) to take up the position as Professor of the Institute of Artistic Culture. The main focus was working on architecture models with his students, meanwhile writing his book 'The Nonobjective World' which was published in 1926. The book deals with his Suprematist theory and the quest to deliver the hypothetical fourth dimension within art; basically the fourth dimension was generated from the art and sensed by people who were able to understand the art.


Malevich - Irwin

He continued his post at the Institute until 1927. In the same year he travelled to Warsaw for an exhibition of his paintings, before taking it over to Berlin's Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung. While in Germany he met up with Naum Gabo, Jean Arp, Le Corbusier, and Kurt Schwitters. He visited the Bauhaus in Dessau where he met the architect Walter Gropius (founder of Bauhaus) who was serving as its director. His contacts with German artists would soon be a problem. In 1929 Malevich held a solo exhibition at the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow. The communist authorities were becoming increasingly intolerant to anything that did not conform to their ideals; lately Malevich's status was quickly declining in favour of the artists of the Socialist Realism. His connections with Germans artists resulted in his arrest in 1930 and the subsequent destruction of many of his manuscripts. Malevich continued to paint mainly in more conventional style, but life was now very difficult and a struggle to survive. He died penniless in Leningrad 1935.

Still Life - Irwin 1989

Mixed technique where Malevich's
original images dominates
the painting

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