Kazimir Severinovich Malevich

Born 1878 in Kiew, Ukraine.
Died 1935 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Pseudonymous: Kasimir Malevich

Kazimir Malevich was a russian painter, art theorist [theoretician] and head of the avant-garde Suprematism movement. He was born in Kiev Governorate, but moved in 1904 to Moscow. He studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and got in touch with some of his first influences in art. He was introduced to Larionov in 1906. Four years later Malevich was part of a collective art exhibition with Larionov and Gancharova. It was the first time that he takes part of the Jack of Diamonds show.

It is known that Malevich, more than any other artist, was the one who first used the cubist geometry as a start point to an absolute geometric abstraction. During the years of 1911 to 1913 he experimented different aspects and properties of the cubism and futurism movements. However, his biggest question was related to the reduction of the subject matter. As Malevich itself describes: “…in the year 1913, in my desperate attempt to free art from the burden of the object, I took refuge in the square form and exhibited a picture which consisted of nothing more than a black square on a white field”. This was the first step towards the Suprematism movement. “The supremacy of pure feeling in creative art.” as stated by Malevich in his book “The Non Objective World”.

Amongst his contemporary artists that had being part of the abstractionism movement, Malevich was the unique to use the ultimate geometric simplification in such scale.
His contribution to the twentieth century art and academies was enormous. His purely geometric abstraction served as inspiration for many future generations, such as the russian Constructivists, to El Lissitzky, to the Bauhaus theories, to the international design of modern architecture and some decades later we can investigate how much of it had possibly influenced the history of the early computer art.

After some detailed analysis on works of the early computer art works we found such influence in the work of Michael Noll as well as in the work of Kenneth Knowlton & Lillian Schwartz, although it has never before been directly related to Malevich canvases.

The Michael Noll’s piece “3-Dimensional Projection of a Rotating 4-Dimensional Hypercube” (1962) has the simplicity of the abstract thoughts of Malevich. Firstly for its 3D shaping, that can be analyzed as encouraged the serious and deep three dimensional studies made by Malevich during the years of 1915 to 1923. Besides that, Michael Noll’s 3D projection can be inspired by the phase of “aviation passion” when Malevich’s expresses on his canvases the purest sensation of flying and portrays the feelings of movement (1913-1918). The diagonals and three dimensions are now literally moving and celebrating the new technologies abilities of expression.

The Kenneth Knowlton & Lillian Schwartz work “Pixillation” (1963) programmed in BELFLIX is aesthetically an evolution of the black squares to an reverse contrast of black background with numerous white squared in movement and circunscrits. The complexity of such piece is obvious if compared to the first phase of Malevich. Nevertheless it can be related to it as a start point of the supremacy of the geometrical forms. Such as they would not exhibit such movement concepts trying organics shapes, for instance. The dynamics of such work, also correlated to movement, as it is an animation, might be related to the “complication” phase of Malevich, where he experiments creating tension between two or several instruments. The optical illusions resulting from such animation can also be related to the optical art movement, which certainly had been influenced by Malevich first steps towards geometric and simplification of forms and colours

The abstraction of coding, once again should be mentioned as part of a process where the mimesis of the real can not be assumed as an immediate act as it was possible before. Even if the final product ends up being a naturalist portrait, the process of composing it will always have a mediation of a written code and an interpreter, a computer, to deliver it. The mandatory abstract act of coding would constantly invite the artist-programmer to a deep dive into the beauty of the mathematical language as universal as Malevich’s canvases was intended to be.

Kazimir Malevich (Kazimir Severinovich Malevich)

Date and place of birth: February 23, 1879. Kiev Governorate, Russia. *Date and place of death: *May 15, 1935. Leningrad (Saint Petersburg), Russia.

Kazimir Malevich was born in Kiev Governorate, Russia in February 23 1879. His parents Seweryn and Ludwika Malewicz are from Poland. He lived in a catholic family and was the first of 14 children. He spent most of his childhood in the villages of Ukraine, away from the contact with professional artists and big centers of culture. When Malevich was 16 years old he studied drawing for two years in Kiev and already could paint in peasant style. In 1904, after his father’s death, he moved to Moscow where he started his studies at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.

Malevich first paintings suffer the cubist influence, in 1911 on the canvas “Morning in the Village after Snowstorm” it is notable some of its early characteristics.

The canvases from 1911 to 1913 were clearly influenced by Futurism and Cubism movements. Until the point that Malevich acknowledged the need of breaking with the representational manners. In 1913 it results on its first geometrical abstract piece: “…In my desperate attempt to free art from the burden of the object, I took refuge in the square form and exhibited a picture which consisted of nothing more than a black square on a white field” [Malevich]. The piece named “Basic Suprematist Element: The Square” was a pencil drawing made in 1913. His first purely abstract geometric piece was certainly the initial visual statement for the Suprematist movement. Malevich in his book “The Non Objective World” defines Suprematism as: “The supremacy of pure feeling in creative art.”

It is known that Malevich, as a devout Christian mystic, felt, as well as Kandinsky and Mondrian, an urge to express his spiritual beliefs as visual experiences. The spiritual and the universal way of communication therefore, is a unifying point to both of the three artists within the abstract movement. The need of exhibiting an elemental universal language denying the use of mimetic ways was then followed as a rule in the Suprematist movement. “the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth.” 1

Malevich was aware of his predecessors in Abstract art. Nevertheless, Kandinsky, Delaunay or Kupka could claim the fact of carrying abstraction in such ultimate geometric simplification.

Malevich paintings evolved from the neutral black square placed on a white background to compositions where he used two or more objects. That was called a “biplanar suprematist composition”. Firstly placing the objects vertically and horizontally, with a more static approach, for instance on the canvas “Suprematism” (1921-1927) where he creates tension with the contrast between the white background, the red vertical rectangle and the horizontal black one. Further on, he experimented placing such objects in diagonals causing the feeling of movement and creating a new dynamics in his canvases. Such experiments are visible on “Suprematism – Self Portrait” (1916) and “Suprematist Composition” (1916).

The foundations for the Suprematist movement were finally stablished once Malevich published in 1915 his own manifesto: “From Cubism to Suprematism”. In the same year he painted the most classic of his paintings: “Black Square”.

From 1913 Malevich got fascinated for the world of aviation. Such passion leaded him to create suprematist compositions “expressing the sensation of flight…the sensation of metallic sounds…the feeling of wireless telegraphy”; “white on white, expressing the feeling of fading away…magnetic attraction”. Expressing such feelings and invisible events he painted “Suprematist Composition: White on White” (1918). Currently part of the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, in New York.

In 1916-1917 Malevich was part of a collective exhibition at the Jack of Diamonds group in Moscow shared with artists such as Nathan Altman, David Burliuk and A. Ekster.

Between the years of 1915 and 1923, Malevich experimented and studied the particularities of three-dimensional objects on drawings and models. Such studies would further be useful to the Bauhaus teachings of design, to the russian Constructivists, to El Lissitzky itself and also to the international design of modern architecture.

Malevich had also a notable academic career. He taught at the Vitebsk Practical Art School in the USSR from 1919 to 1922, then at the Leningrad Academy of Arts from 1922 to 1927, then at the Kiev State Art Institute from 1927 to 1929, and lastly at the House of the Arts in Leningrad in 1930. Previously, in 1927 he had written and published an additional book where he highlights the Suprematist theory, named “The World as Non Objectivity”.

In 1927 Malevich found some international recognition while part of a retrospective in Warsaw, Berlin and Munich.

He suffered also some political complications, after the death of Lenin and Trotsky’s fall, Malevich had many of his works confiscated while the Stalinist regime turned against abstract art. Stalinists considered abstract art as an anti-socialist form of art, that it could never express social realities and then tagged it as a “bourgeois” art.

Malevich paintings also had been badly criticized by the art historian Alexandre Benois. He affirmed that Malevich was denying “everything good and pure: love of life and love of nature.” Malevich replied to such attacks claiming that “art does not need us, and it never did”.

Malevich died of cancer on May 15 of 1935 and as a last homage it was exhibited his black square above him on his deathbed.

Only recently Malevich’s paintings were again effectively part of the russian art spaces, after a considerably long absence.

*References: *Malevich, Kazimir “The Non Objective World”
“Emergence of Abstract Art”


Lillian Schwartz, who individually created the early films, never used BEFLIX since it had little power over making the computer a tool for art. She then drafted what became EXPLOR, which Knowlton wrote and amended based upon Schwartz's input. Pixillation was a commissioned work created by Schwartz for AT&T. Most of it ended up using hand animation, new color filters, changes to an optical bench, etc. As for the film mentioned here as hypercube, it was a toss-off of Ed Zajac, a laid-back physicist at the Labs. More importantly, Schwartz created a technique of using saturated colors and film editing so that almost everything she did could be viewed as 2D or, wearing Chromadepth glasses (invented decades later), in 3D. In any event, EXPLOR could not work for Schwartz so she moved on to working with other programmers who did not insist on a 'collaboration' credit (which he was never given by Stan VanDerBeek).