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From Malewicz to Bazylewicz


Friday, December 17, 1915 was an ordinary day in St-Petersburg – with the darkness that fell early and the wind that blew with strong piercing gusts. The weather was really indisposing to stay outside. The sky was covered by dense clouds, and increscent moon in its second phase was unable to help the street lights, their dim glow diffusing in the cold mist. It was especially uncomfortable on the big square called Mars Field, where all winds blew through and through. Hurrying pedestrians were turning their collars up. Some of them were heading to immense mansion built in XVIII standing on the corner of Mars Field and Moyka street, where “Art Bureau” of Nadezhda Dobychina, famous gallery-owner of those years, was situated. A new exhibition just opened. Street ads were saying “The last exhibition of cubo-futuric paintings”. The exhibition’s name was really strange, containing no words, just numbers: “0.10”.

The idea of the name belonged to Kazimir Malewicz, a kievite of Polish origin, who entered the hall of fame of the world’s art history as founder of “suprematism”. The number “0.10” symbolized the intention to trace all visual forms down “to zero” and to make further transition from cubism – which, by the way, had already brought all complex forms and shapes down to most simple ones – straight ahead to “supremtism”, e.g. to the total absence of material forms. These ideas were stated in the respective “manifesto brochure” under the title “From Cubism to Suprematism”, which had been published by Malewicz just before the exhibition was opened. The picture-show was called “last” because it was presumed that cubism had outlived its usefulness and suprematism would be taking over soon. The famous “Black square” picture of Malewicz was among the other pieces of art presented at the show.

Almost one century, or 1272 lunary months had passed, and it was Friday again, 11th of February, 2011. The date was quite interesting by itself, because it could be read as palindrome – from left to right, and from right to left – 11.02.2011. It was a bit frosty in Kyiv, but there was almost no wind. Thick clouds curtained increscent moon in its second phase. Downtown café located in a house built in 1915 was not at all crowded. At one of the tables there were two kievites, Constantine Dusanovski and Oleg Bazylewicz, having an excited conversation. 30 years ago both of them graduated from school, so former classmates had a lot of things to talk about. But this time their dialogue was focused on beaux-arts.

They were talking about a new style in contemporary art. Is it possible to go beyond suprematism? By the way, it was interesting to mention that birthday of its founder, Kazimir Malewicz, fell on that date, too – Februry 11, 1879 – though by Julian Calendar… So, is there a chance to create something which would be even more abstracted away from material forms and shapes, and at the same time – impregnated with some new meaning, unusual in arts? Can the attempt be undertaken – not only to liberate the new meaning from the dictatorship of forms, colours and textures, but also to subordinate all artistic expressive means to it?

Yes. Numbers do offer the way. Drawing numbers, or drawing with the numbers is just an artistic whim. We should better think of entire expressions, sequences, rows and matrices – how to present them the way they could be extracted with a little effort of mind in order to promote some further thinking, not necessarily intended by the artist. How to discover the world of numbers which this way or another is standing behind the world of things? How to open the way to the world of ideas – or at least how to tell: “look, here is the door to the world of pure mind”?

At the evening of February 11, 2011, the palindrome date which could be read both ways, so to say,  a new style of contemporary art was born. The style called “Arithmism”, from the Greek word αριθμός (“arithmos”) – “number”. Soon a short document titled “Manifesto of Arithmism” was composed, first sketches and then studies were performed, and then first paintings started to come out.

Thus, it took a bit more than 95 years, or 1272 lunar months to go from one Friday to another, for pre-revolutionary St.-Petersburg to (could possibly be pre-revolutionary, too) Kyiv, from one kievite to other two ones, from one increscent moon to another. From Suprematism to Arithmism. From Malewicz to Bazylewicz?


(First published at 23:32  12.11.2012 on http://ronin.com.ua/posts/317)