Kazimir Malevich, Black Square: Meaning and Memory

Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square on a White Field is justifiably regarded as a Suprematist masterpiece. His 1915 oil on canvas creation is a timeless wonder, replete with emotional content and a definite weightiness so seldom found in lesser works. Now, almost 100 years after Kazimir Malevich gave birth to his black square, we reassess the essence of the painting and its impact upon memory.

Kazimir Malevich: Black Square on a White Field Revisited

Before we fully engage with the work, let me first state, at the risk of being somewhat obtuse, that the full glory of the work can be witnessed only when one is standing in St.Petersburg’s State Russian Museum. Here, after feasting on delicate caviar and pure, airy vodka in a street side cafe, one may stand eye to eye with the canvas itself.  Delectable and naked, like the lithe virgin, one can indulge the pleasures of both eye and mind.

However, not all men have such fortune. For now, we shall collectively marvel at the image via the medium of online reproduction. Please consider, imagine and take precious time to bathe in the Black Square. When you are spent, move on…

A number of art critics, those both profound and peculiar, have deemed Malevich’s work to be, I quote, “incomprehensible”. This, perhaps, is the tide against which we fight. Or, to be salient, are we swimming against a barrier of purely mental design?

Malevich, the Black Square and Modern Art Memories

I ask you now, what do you see? The sensation of space is evident, so too the function of line and temporal stability. Yet the image is a frame, drawing you to the black entrails of the square. What, dear reader, do you see?

On a personal level, Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square repeatedly takes me to four distinct memory platforms:

  • My first wife, enraged and bleating about money while talking to her other lover, 27 years her junior, on the phone.
  • Mishka Mishkalovalova, a Siberian prostitute in whose arms I spent many a fine night, the flames of passion tickling the wiry beard that had grown about my face.
  • A bordello in Venice, long since lost to flames, sadly burned to the ground during an anti-Capitalist demonstration in 1998. A great shame; it was perhaps the finest cathouse in Europe.
  • A four-in-a-bed adventure involving myself, my fifth wife, an Asian house cleaner named Om and a Republican congresswoman with a penchant for silk.

Note, if you will, how the black square takes us into the depths of private memories that lie deep and hidden from wider social understanding and acceptance. Interesting, I am sure you will agree.

Malevich Black Square Meaning

Is the Supremacist nature of the image playing within a particular emotional context? Does Malevich’s Black Square deliberately target primal recollections, bringing them to the fore when one peruses the canvas? The painting undeniably presents a weighty milieu. The off-white field, or frame, is akin to the parted legs of a woman. The black center, meanwhile, is a subtle portrayal of the female part, drawing the viewer into personal memories of clandestine love and joyful physical adventures.

Let us listen to Malevich himself speaking about his Black Square on a White Field:

“But a blissful sense of liberating non-objectivity drew me forth into the “desert”, where nothing is real except feeling… and so feeling became the substance of my life.”

“The emotions which are kindled in the human being are stronger than the human being himself… they must at all costs find an outlet, they must take on overt form, they must be communicated or put to work.”

Malevich: Suprematism of Fantastic Memory

Here we have feeling as the substance of life; we have emotions that override the strength of the human viewer. Malevich’s Black Square is, for me, a bounding adventure into the past, a gateway into erotic memory. Now, dear friend and reader, look at the canvas once again. Then, for the sake of this examination and the furtherance of art itself, tell us, tell the world, what do you see…?


Malevich’s Black Square: Meaning is everything; what do you see?

  9 comments for “Kazimir Malevich, Black Square: Meaning and Memory

  1. some name
    April 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Very very good presentation you have made, thank you. 4 me….I c and feel gushing light, the essence of zen, humility,incredible inspiration of the power of art over the physical realm; and,a sense that i am in the presence of a true master of form and formless.I can not help but think about the chinese cultural revolution when the citizens of peking decided to have no more names of streets and tore down every address and street sign and replaced them with new signs which said the following….. street with no name number one, street with no name number two and so on.I think that is a mistake people can make as an extrapolation of this artistic philosophy.I am sure malevich would not have agreed with that though.

  2. April 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Indeed, sir (or perhaps madam), you make some particularly salient points. The humility of the Black Square is palpable, I agree. Funny you should mention China – the square often takes me back to the year I spent living in a guesthouse near Tiananmen Square, where I enjoyed many hours in the company of a young lady named Xin. Her colleagues informed me that she was distantly related to Chairman Mao, although how she ended up where she did is a mystery. She was a beautiful creature, tainted only be a frightful temper and a piercing voice. Many thanks, kind reader.

  3. Foo
    April 25, 2012 at 11:58 am

    hmm well I see cognitive dissonance in action

    • April 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Ah yes, very interesting. There is a certain conflict within the black square, a type of resonant disequilibrium, perhaps. That alone reminds me of a night spent in the wilds of Siberia, my body wrapped around a rather pretty but vodka-sodden woman from the city of Kyzyl. I may well have died were it not for our shared body heat and a hot stew of month-old gopher flesh.

  4. Your an idiot
    November 29, 2012 at 6:50 am

    I’m Very sorry that your life sucks so bad that your memories of your whores comes to mind when you see a black square. But you DO understand that if you have any intelligence AT ALL that it is just a black square. Regardless what Malevich was feeling and what imaginary description he attached to it. It will always be just a black square and that is why he named it “Black Square”. You sir are an idiot and I will paint a picture of a purple square and call it “An Idiot” just for you……….Thank you. Now you may type big words and try to insult someone that has no respect for your opinion and will never hear your words. Enjoy your whores.

    • December 3, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Thank you for your impassioned commentary. Calling the Black Square “just a black square” is certainly a valid point of view, and one I can respect. If you ever complete your “Purple Square/An Idiot” canvas, I would dearly love to see it. The color purple always brings back memories of a Peruvian nun I once lay with in Lima, but I shall spare you the details as you seem to find such matters distasteful.

      Once again, I thank you.

      • avec amour morelock
        July 29, 2014 at 9:37 am

        Too funny Studio Writer. And I shall send you mine. But, it may frighten you. She is a beauty. Out of Egypt. If you would like to see it let me know. Tala

        • August 15, 2014 at 10:25 pm

          I would be delighted to see your Egyptian beauty, Monsieur Avec Amour Morelock. There are few things in life more memorable than a truly terrifying woman.

  5. avec amour morelock
    July 29, 2014 at 9:41 am

    You may have layed her as well. But, that would have been 2000 years ago. Then again, who knows.

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