Malevich, one of the fundamental figures in the evolution of modern architecture, let alone modern art, is the subject of a major exhibition at Tate Modern currently and running until 26 October: Zaha Hadid has spoken about his importance to her development as an architect, which can be seen very clearly in her earlier, pre-digital projects. His Suprematist paintings- incidentally among the first completely abstract paintings- show a floating world, forms of coloured rectangles in a dynamic relationship to each other. But it is in Room 8 of the exhibition that the most exciting architectural work can be seen, and they need to be seen as their subtleties cannot be reproduced in photographs: a series of white-on-white paintings as well as two which show coloured forms in dissolution, take Malevich’s move into an immaterial world that much further. Here also is a series of ‘Architectons’- abstract white sculptures taking these Suprematist forms into three dimensionality- we see the promise of an architecture, however scaleless and unresolved technically, which show an idea of what modern architecture could have been be rather than what it was to become.
And what does it all mean? Despite the date of this work in the 1910s, not much to do with the 1917 Russian Revolution. Curiously, the curators of this exhibition seem to have expunged any reference to the spirituality which shaped his work. One version of his black square paintings is placed high in the corner of a room, the place for an ikon in traditional Russian homes, in this emulating Malevich’s own installation in the 1915 Petrograd Suprematist exhibition.The white space in his work is the space of infinity, both inward and outward:going beyond the world of material into the cosmic and transcendental. And the black square, which became his personal symbol, a representation of man and his creation.