Kazimir Malevitsj - the man of the legendary 'Black square on a white background' - is regarded as one of the figureheads of the so-called 'abstract' art, an art that refuses to represent the real world. Did he not write in The Non-Objective World (1927): ‘In the year 1913, trying desperately to free art from the dead weight of the real world, I took refuge in the form of the square.’ ?
It pays to have a closer look on one of his works - Dynamic Suprematism - and to describe it without prejudice.
It is obvious, then, that the geometric forms on this canvas are deployed in some kind of space. To be sure, it is not our familiar three-dimensional space, in which shapes can develop and move undisturbed. Malevich' space consists of two parallel layers - one in which the big triangle unfolds, and another in which the smaller shapes concentrate. In its turn, the latter layer consists of many parallel layers, in which the smaller shapes move on different levels. The shapes that inhabit these layers, are perfectly adapted to their layered habitat: it is two-dimensional planes. That it is geometric shapes at that - triangles, rectangles and segments of a circle- and hence the complete opposite of the living, that unfolds itself in three-dimensional organic shapes, all too easily has us overlook that their organisation is not geometric at all, but incontestably biomorphic. The big triangle on the background is something of a sustaining - harbouring, almost motherly - entity, around the extremities of which more agile, heterogeneous - non-uniform - beings are interacting in hierarchically organised configurations. The shift of our attention from the geometry of the shapes to the organicity of the interaction, makes visible that, although the entities may be geometric, they are not at all lifeless. We are dealing with animated beings, and that they are organised in complex configurations, makes its visible in its turn that they are not subject to the forces of gravity. For, just like the angels (of olden times), they weightlessly float in a space that is unearthly in still another aspect: the light does not radiaate from some central source of light that illuminates surfaces and thus casts shadows, not even from the objects themselves, but it pervades evenly and without any shadow the entire space - just like in the heavens of yore that used to bathe in a divine ubiquitous (omnipresent) light.
Although there are considerable differences with the world as we know it, Malevich' is a world that is three-dimensional, but layered, in which two-dimensional beings are engaged in complex interactions, and that become visible in the light of an ether that is spread evenly over the entire space.
No 'abstract' art, hence, but an art that reveals worlds which we hitherto had not seen - 'figurative art'. Worse still: figurative art that depicts its 'figures' literally - true to nature, obsequiously. The geometric beings are not suggested through strokes or lines with an organisation of their own, but rendered in detail and fully saturated, and the shapes are not simplified or expressively deformed. How 'photographical' the rendering of this unfamiliar world is, would appear in all its glory, when we would make a three-dimensional and properly lit model of it, and when we would make a photograph of it, to subsequently compare the photo and the picture: the differences would be nearly perceptible.
Abstract art, the ultimate negation of the scorned 'servile photography, figurative art hence, that shows as usual an - albeit self-conceived - world, and that renders that world in the most obvious and familiar - true to nature - way.
© Stefan Beyst, July 2015.