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London Art Walks – Tate Modern

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

In a previous post we began looking at a building that is passed on many of our south London walks, Tate Modern. Today we look at one of the paintings on display inside Tate Modern.

On level five you will find the gallery Energy and Process. The Central Hub of this gallery is dedicated to the Arte Povera Movement, an Italian Art movement of the late 1960′s and early 1970′s.

The late sixties was a period of great social upheaval, not just in Italy but also across the rest of Europe and in North America.

Artists began to attack the status quo of government, industry and culture. They started to question whether art as a private expression of the individual could still exist ethically in their society.

In Italy a group of artists began using materials that were not readily associated with art Рevery day objects such as industrial beams, metal,  rags and even statutory purchased from garden centres.

The movement became known as Arte Povera, or Poor Art and we’ll look at the central hub of this is a later London Walking Tours posting.

However, to reach the hub of the Energy and Process wing you must first enter the dialogue room where a very strange looking painting confronts you.

The painting is called Dynamic Suprematism and it was painted in 1915 or 1916 by the Russian Artist Kasimir Malevich.

One of the things that we stress time and again on our London walks is the importance of looking, and this applies particularly with some of the art in Tate Modern.

At first glance Dynamic Suprematism looks like a series of meaningless and jumbled shapes. Triangles, rectangles, cones and semi-circles lean against each other. They push and pull against each other, or else they balance precariously on top of each other.

But what Malevich wants us to look at the painting as a spiritual experience and in so doing to look into the void,  to see across the abyss and, perhaps, even glimpse, eternity itself.

For what Malevich has tried to do with Dynamic Suprematism is to replace the traditional high art and religious iconography of pre revolution Russia with a geometric simplicity that does away with with the need for the artist to depict the external world. He wants the artist to, as Malevich¬† himself put it, “swim in a white free abyss” and, in so doing, to presented the viewer with a suggestion of the third dimension.

In our later post we will look at what Malevich is trying to portray with Dynamic Suprematism, meanwhile why not join one of our London walks that take in the wonderful Industrial Cathedral that is Tate Modern?