Monthly Archives: August 2014

Big Bang

Much praise has been heaped on the Kazimir Malevich exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, the first major retrospective of the artist’s work for 25 years, which runs until 26th October.  Malevich was born in Kiev in 1879 and his life coincided with an extraordinarily volatile and fertile period of Russian history. The paintings have been displayed in more or less chronological order, enabling visitors to track how Malevich’s thinking and art changed in response to the cataclysmic events he was living through.

Kasimir Malevich - a real revolutionary

Kasimir Malevich – a real revolutionary

The pivotal piece of the exhibition is Black Square, which Malevich created as the logical culmination of his ideas about an art divorced from the need to represent the natural world and thus completely free from the constraints and traditions of figurative painting.

The paint itself is quite textured, with brush strokes and faint gradations of colour clearly visible within the whitish border.  The black square itself has acquired further texture as a result of extensive cracking of the paint.   These days, original 1915 canvas is too fragile to be moved from its home in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, with the result that the version on display in London is one of three copies Malevich made in the years that followed.

Black Square

Black Square

For all its simplicity, the image presented is incredibly haunting, signifying as it does both an ending and a beginning. It’s impossible to view it without considering the historical context; a Russia on the brink of revolution, careening at full speed towards an abyss of orgiastic destruction.

What is in hindsight particularly heart-breaking is the overwhelming sense of new possibility, an unwavering confidence in an as yet unknown future.  It must have felt truly amazing to be an artist like Malevich, with both the skill and the licence to reimagine the world in every detail.

Viewed in this way, Black Square becomes a void pregnant with possibility.   What it made me feel was a  sense of the universe in the seconds before the big bang, pulsating with pent up energy at the very instant it explodes into life.

In the years following the creation of Black Square, Malevich initiated a movement known as Suprematism and produced a series of canvases featuring shapes of various colours, usually on a white background. These images convey a sense of dynamic fragmentation, as if a fist has been slammed onto the surface of a table and Malevich had somehow managed to capture the moment when all the objects on top of it have flown up into the air.  Later yet, he created a series of images dissolving at the edges and fading to white; what he called the end of art.

Black Trapezium and Red Square

Black Trapezium and Red Square

In the 1920s, Malevich abandoned painting and turned to teaching instead.  By this time, the pieces thrown up by the Russian revolution had come back to earth and resettled in a new reality.  Although by this time he was beginning to find a new audience abroad, Malevich found himself falling foul of the Stalinist regime and its retrograde ideas about art.  He was arrested for a short period in 1930 and died of cancer soon after.  The original Black Square, and the ground-breaking ideas it exemplified, disappeared from public view, not to re-emerge for more than quarter of a century.


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Filed under Art, Reviews, Russia

Head or Heart?

The observant among you may have noticed it’s been a while since I posted on this blog. This is because, like many others, we’ve been partaking of the annual mass migration from north to south in the hope of finding a bit of sun, meals we don’t have to cook ourselves and some quality family time together.

Somewhat eccentrically, we prefer to avoid airports and planes in favour of stuffing the family car with everything we could possibly need – and much that we don’t – and taking a leisurely drive through France towards Italy, where we have friends and relatives.

William the Conqueror's Castle, Falaise, Normandy.

William the Conqueror’s Castle, Falaise, Normandy.

Done properly, the travelling is as much a part of the holiday as the time we spend at our destination. We’ve got it down to a fine art; crossing the channel in the evening, spending the night in one of the picturesque towns in Northern France such as Falaise or Reims and then heading on south.

I enjoy the car journeys. I’m lucky because the spouse prefers to do the driving, so I can spend the time watching the countryside gradually change as I plot out story ideas in my head. On the way there, you have the anticipation of what’s to come; on the way back, the sense of eking out the time away just that little bit longer.

Amiens Cathedral

Amiens Cathedral

We’ve got into the habit of spending our last night away in Amiens, which has a stunning 13th century cathedral and an attractive river frontage lined with a plethora of bars and restaurants. A slap-up dinner is always a nice way to bring the holiday to a proper conclusion.

We spent quite a lot of the time away discussing the relative merits of France and Italy. I love them both for different reasons. Italy is warm and convivial – especially as we tend to spend much of the time with family. The food is incomparable and the landscape stunning.

Al Mare in Tuscany

‘Al Mare’ in Tuscany

However Italy these days has a run-down air about it and our friends complain about declining public services and the difficulty of finding work, especially for young people. France always feels slightly cooler and less welcoming, but just seems to work better, with excellent roads and the sense of things being well organised and generally better managed.

If I had to choose between the two, it would be a tough decision. My heart would always plump for Italy, but my head tells me that France would definitely be more ‘liveable.’


Filed under Family, Friends, Screenwriting, Travel, Uncategorized, Writing

In memory of Robin Williams

Please take a look at this beautiful and moving tribute to Robin Williams from Blood ‘n Shadows Writing.

Blood 'N' Shadow Writings

I know this is not my usual post. But I made this last night and I want to share it with all of you. I did the instrumentals a few months ago, and so I integrated it in the video. Enjoy!

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