Ukraine • 1879−1935

Malevich with dictionary. Zemlyanit, architecton, vsezver and other significant words in Malevich's universe

Kazimir Malevich was tongue-tied and eloquent simultaneously. Barbarian and "bookless": when he talked, his well-read interlocutors listened to him with their mouths wide open, as Malevich`s speeches were full of chthonian drive as his paintings were. Odd, wild, scratching words surrounded him in a marvelous phonetic cloud. Some of them were invented by Malevich, the others intruded into his fate, as if feeling that this would be the right place for them. Arthive collected the words and abbreviations related to the artist`s life, making an effort to understand what all of them mean.

Kazimir Malevich was known as a babbler. "The first all-Russian forum of the babblers of future": Mikhail Matyushin, Kazimir Malevich and Alexey Kruchenykh. Uusikirkko, Finland, 1913

Malevich in his laboratory. 1930s. Photo: sothebys.com


In 1923 Kazimir Malevich began to create gipseous models reminding modern sky-scrapers, though without windows, doors and other "trifles". Malevich called them architectones and they functioned as the universal form-generating basis, the principle of any architectural style, simply put, for the Earth Architecture. This determination was not invented by Kazimir Severinovich but, rather, borrowed (for some time) and put into use: in Old Russian, a word "архитектонъ" had the meaning "the main builder".


According to Malevich planits were the drafts of the houses to be inhabited by the people of the future. Unlike architectons, planits included details like stairs or windows. Do not think, however, that these drafts were consonant with reality in the middle of 1920s. Suffice it to say that some planits were desighed as "air» - the architectural projects by Malevich passed ahead the time at least for a couple of hundreds of years.


Zemlyanit, according to Malevich, is a man from the utopian future. He is not tied to earth (neither in agricultural sense nor in terms of gravitation) and dwells in "air planits". Judging from the title, zemlyanit does not have nationality. Besides, he disregarded such vestiges as politics, religion, and traditional "subject" art. In general, zemlyanit was a sort of “budetlyanin” invented by Velimir Khlebnikov, only without belonging to the Cubofuturist movement.


Averaged and generalized embodiment of earthly fauna. In his treatise "Suprematism. World as subjectlessness" Kazimir Severinovich expressed doubts regarding the possibility of peace and order in the animal reign. In inherent to him unique manner he wrote about unimprovable nature of "vsezver", "Indeed, had all the animals arranged the single Animal State, they would have attained the death of all animal beings, a wolf wouldn`t have wished to devour a hare, the lion – that of a cow. Not having the other technique, but jaws and teeth, the animals will hardly restrain from eating species of another kind".


"Kinoresca", a combination of the cinema and the fresco, was a scornful title used by Malevich for the films, where, to his opinion, the authors did not use rich possibilities of the cinema. In the article "Cinema, phonograph, radio and artistic culture" he complained, that the cinema goes the same way as the old painting, sculpture and architecture, and “no artistic form can be seen behind junk and kisses" in those “kinorescas”.

"So, to express all this stuff by means of the cinema,” Malevich wrote, “it is necessary to have the own method, as it was in pictorial and sculptural arts once, the method to escape from "the kinorescs of lower middle class". However, the cinema does not have the methods of liberation until now. The cinema is at the mercy of painting and sculpture - therefore the cinema is not something having its own art, composition, system and material, as color, form, laws of relations in painting, and the cinema is the temporal phenomenon in its essence".


Vaal is a bloodthirsty deity, the ruler of everything. According to Bible, the admirers of Vaal burned their own children fot its sake. Gosvaal ("State Vaal") is a neologism Malevich used to designate Soviet authorities demanding the oblations from cultural and art workers. "Russian art has become a mistress or a prostitute of Gosvaal, which, in its turn, gives it to its vassals for the same needs", Kazimir Severinovich wrote in his work "Painting".


Malevich`s favourite word: he used it so often in the theoretical works, that managed to give it nearly new connotation. "Foody" by Malevich means things not only related to the orders, fees, career and other goods-and-money prose". Kazimir Severinovich interpreted this concept in a considerably broader sense - as a synonym to the “figurative". He considered both politics and religion, philosophy and science to be "foody things" - all, that was related to the materialistic ideology. To Malevich any artwork that was meant to satisfy even exceptionally aesthetic queries of the public was a "foody art".
Kazimir Malevich. Supremus No. 56
Supremus No. 56
1916, 80.5×71 cm


Suprematism (from Latin supremus - the greatest) is a term Malevich coined to name the avant-garde art movement expressed in combinations of multicolored planes of the simple geometrical outlines, - square, circle, rectangle (he called them "suprems). Initially this word designated superiority of color over the other properties of painting. However, in course of time it acquired another sense – superiority among the other art movements. Certainly, the main merit of Malevich is not finding the right word, but inventing Suprematism. He set forth its principles, popularized it all around the world, and did everything, so that the others were regarded as the imitators or the followers. The only artist, who succeeded in a similar affair before him earlier in the XX century, was Picasso with Cubism.

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There is an impression, that Kazimir Malevich could not make a single step without joining Ginhuk, Gahn or Unovis. One would easily tell his biography with abbreviations.

1920. The Unovis group. Vitebsk


The Moscow school of painting, sculpture and architecture was one of the most prestigious art teaching institutions in tsarist Russia. Kazimir Malevich tried to enter it four times. Later he would explain that he left the school because he did not share his teachers` views. He even invented a story about the rebellion, which was allegedly committed together with Mayakovsky. The truth is that Kazimir Severinovich never managed to pass the entrance exams.


The military revolutionary committees were temporary emergency organs of the proletarian authorities. In 1917, the Moscow military revolutionary committee appointed Malevich a commissar for the protection of monuments and a member of the Commission for the protection of art treasures (mainly, the Kremlin treasures). In fact, he was entrusted with the same functions as Gustave Courbet Kurbe had during the Paris commune. Fortunately, Malevich didn`t demolish his own “Vendôme column”.


The People's Commissariat of Education of RSFSR. In 1918, Malevich was elected a member of the Artistic Board of the Narcompros fine arts department. Moreover, in 1929 Anatoly Lunacharsky appointed him Narcompros People's Commissar.


State Academy of Artistic Sciences was a research institution operating in Moscow in the 1920-s. Malevich read his reports there, including the famous "On the surplus element in painting".


Malevich was also a member of the Union of Contemporary Architects.


State Institute of Artistic Culture was Soviet scientific institution located in Petrograd-Leningrad. Since its foundation in 1923, Kazimir Malevich has held the post of its director. In addition, he ran the formal-theoretical department of the Institute. In 1926, the newspaper "Leningradskaya Pravda" published an article-denunciation titled "The monastery on state finance", which has given rise to the closure of the institute. Malevich was not mentioned in the article, but it described "structures composed of rectangular pieces of white plaster” - has to be, architectones. Anyway, the authorities drew attention to the "useless artistic masturbation or counter-revolutionary propaganda", and the Institute has ceased to exist as an independent institution.
Director of SIAC. Leningrad. 1926


Chief administration of scientific, artistic and museum institutions was the authority (Glavnauka), whose tasks included the coordination and financial support of scientific and cultural organizations. It was Glavnauka, where Malevich addressed the letter asking to let him go to Europe on foot (he had no money for the tickets): to leave Leningrad on May 15, planning to reach Paris on November 1.


Leningrad porcelain plant after Lomonosov (before the revolution known as “The imperial porcelain plant”). In 1922, the management of LPP invited Malevich to collaboration, and he founded the "laboratory of forms" there, where his famous suptematist "semicups" and teapot were invented.


Incorporated State Political Administration at the Council of people`s commissars of the USSR arrested Malevich in 1930 accusing him to be “a German spy", and imprisoned him in "the Crosses" for about three months.


In 1919 in Vitebsk Kazimir Malevich founded artistic association “Molposnovis” – "Young followers of the new art." Soon he shortened the title to "Posnovis", and then renamed the group into "Unovis" - "Founders of new art." This organization had its own symbols, rituals (for example, the Unovis members had black square labels on their sleeves), but resembled, rather, a sect than a community of artists. They quickly became overgrown with rumors, mythology, followers. Soon the Ubnovis branches appeared in Smolensk, Perm, Saratov, Moscow, and Malevich`s Suprematist theory started to go beyond painting.

Famous architect Lazar "El" Lissitzky (who made Suprematism enter the world architecture) called his works "prouns" - "projects of approving new".This sonorous reduction hit bulky "molposnovis" by Malevich. Kazimir Severinovich was slightly jealous, regretting that he had not made up the right word. After hearing about the "prouns" he started to call Lissitzky as "a fox". However, in some way he managed to get even with Lissitzki, giving his daughter the name Una.
Kazimir Malevich with his daughter Una. Vitebsk. 1920-s

Written by Andrew Zimoglyadov