The Suprematism of Sargei Slaughtermelovich

I have been studying Suprematism and geometric modernist avant-garde art in general for some time now.

One of the interesting things about studying “Non-Objective” art is trying to imagine how exactly so many different people can go about making art that is meant to have no real world reference and yet they each choose their own movement’s visual grammar, their own color palettes and styles. That is – how can art that is meant to be without context, as the Suprematists say “pure feeling,” how can it exist without some kind of context? Even if it’s only a style, it seems that context and rules of form, rhythm, and space, they always creep in and start to regulate the designs and pin them to some part of time and some place. I thought about this a lot when I revisited Sega Sibyl designs with some new rules. The shapes of the squiggles, the patterns and textures: they were deliberately calling forth a specific place and time even though for the most part they were just shapes, patterns, arrangements. How can non-objectivity repeatedly be so specific?

In the course of reading (again) about Malevich and the black square, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitsky, Alexander Rodchenko, and others – I was thinking about visual grammar. Malevich claimed that the essential supremus shapes are the square, circle, and cross (in that order). If you look in his work, there are rarely many triangles – and when there are he seems like he’s making a point. If you look across the work of El Lissitsky, there are often 3d elements or at least shapes that look like they’re in a kind of perspective: El was profoundly concerned with how art helps us to relate to the world around us, how it shapes the life we live off of the canvas (see especially his Proun installation) – so it makes sense that he considered 3d objects important to his compositions. Moholy-Nagy uses more transparency than lots of other strictly geometric abstraction designers at least partially because he was thinking about materials, about the transition of art into design for function and thus included mentally shapes made of things like glass, things meant as a part of a whole and not as the planes and objects of a world that couldn’t exist – or like in Malevich – a world that existed in a more true sense that we were meant to transcend into. Some implicit rules that seem true for Malevich: rarely are shapes straight horizontal or vertical, rarely are they perfectly regular – they are designed to feel floating over infinite void of white: not resting. They are designed to feel as thought they sometimes push other shapes away to preserve the framing of each shape and others they slightly overlap – giving the impression of varied existences. The more rules I tried to understand the more I was curious about what was going on mentally for an artist like Malevich. For myself, it became crucial to really study in detail the grammar. What is meant by this sentence or that word, in this place or that – and what does any of it mean if it’s supposed to be “pure feeling” and not reverse-engineered into actual language?

Consider, for example, that all three of these artists of that age are trying to be non-objective in their art – and yet they each have a distinct language of their own:

In the course of these studies it was fascinating to read about this artist or that in Malevich’s circle whose work has been totally lost either to historical circumstance with the revolution in Russia or just the passage of time and people not keeping track. I started imagining myself as one of those artists whose work has been wholly lost. Finding out that in the last 20 years we’ve discovered archives of things that we thought lost was shocking to me – are there still new things being brought to light? What new works might appear in the next 20 years? What if *my* Suprematist designs were discovered? Not me (obviously) but the works of Sargei Slaughtermelovich – the obscure designer at the periphery of Malevich’s sphere of influence? Maybe some friend of Vladimir Tatlin that tried it for a season and then died in the war or disappeared into history?

The truth is – most of these artists were not so strict with their style. There are works by Kliun that look like they might as well have been done by Lissitzky, there’s works by Rodchenko – who was ideologically at odds with Malevich – that look like they could have just as easily been done by Kasimir himself. This is also one of the difficulties of making “fake” pieces like this – if the language is too strict it dies a sort of formal death. It’s not even true to what a real artist *would have* been like. I figure this is kind of similar to the way that Renaissance literature tried to mimic the Latin of Cicero too closely: it became overly stilted and imitative, and cemented itself as a dead language instead of a revitalization of latin as a living language. Maybe that’s okay, though – to make Suprematist works that cement that movement as a part of the past that lived in its own time and place – and perhaps it was hubris to think that context-less pure feeling was a thing that could be captured.

I started the series on just as an experiment in a place where there was not much sales history, no audience to disappoint with some weird new effort. I think the first few actually turned out pretty decent, but I was definitely getting a feel for it still.

I decided to move forward with the series after these initial pieces on Algorand and the idea struck me to have a fake signature to finish the sort of archival joke (not unlike the Moniac Mod bit). I used scans of Malevich’s handwriting to reconstruct a signature of Саргей Слотермелович with the help of Russian artist, Rylen. I scanned hundreds of papers and textures to get authentic looking forgeries and started chopping them up to make some designs – which, incidentally, really is sort of how some of the early designs from Popova or Rozanova were made apparently – as “paste-ons.” I’m still trying to understand how artists in Malevich’s circle managed to make pieces that feel like they are one pure feeling and not everything at once – how they could ignore sometimes principles of designs for the sake of making a statement, or how they could do something very clear and simple without feeling like it needed embellishment and elaboration. It’s difficult to find the balance between minimalism that simply makes it a different art style and maximalism which ends up just being things stacked on things in an effort to make every piece a magnum opus.

I’m going to host this series from here on in a new collection. It will be the first series I’ve really begun on Tezos since the original HEN site went down, where I have been using to mint to the old HEN collection. The crucial point here is that these designs are derivative. They aren’t meant to be original – they are meant to be an imaginary insertion into a historical epoch that I missed. I wanted to put them on Tezos specifically because they are (by design) unoriginal, and I don’t want collectors on Eth markets to consider them original – many of whom by their own admission “don’t get art” – and I think Tezos has a slightly more art-centric audience who will appreciate (read: tolerate) what I’m up to.