Rob Kidd, Editor
This exhibition traces some of the most turbulent periods in Russia’s history, from the fall of the Tsars to the Revolution via the First World War. The artist started out producing figurative images, learning from European household names like Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse, whose work was displayed in Moscow. He quickly built a reputation as a talented artist.
It didn’t take long for Malevich to develop his own style, distinct from the Europeans who influenced him. Blending elements of Cubism and Futurism, his paintings draw on a consistent, bold colour palette and angular geometry of form.
Malevich’s work became more and more abstract, reaching an esoteric crescendo with his infamous Black Square. For many, it sits alongside Duchamp’s Readymade urinal as a turning point in modern art. For others, it falls firmly into the ‘my five-year-old could have done that’ category. Two versions are featured, so you can make your own mind up.
As the years went by, Malevich came full circle and returned to his figurative beginnings. With the social upheaval of 1917, and civil war two years later, he struggled to maintain focus, and abandoned painting altogether for a time. He returned to it in the late 1920s, creating stark and controversial works depicting the plight of peasants. Stalin’s stranglehold on the arts meant he fell out of favour during the last years of his life.
This is an interesting exhibition, but one with a potentially limited appeal. At £14.50, it’s pretty steep, but likely to find favour with die-hard modern art fans looking to expand their knowledge.
Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art is at Tate Modern until 26 October 2014. Admission is £14.50 (£12.50 concessions).