I was born in 1896. What I'm telling here, I've been telling for 60 years already. Currently I am 76 years old. The new expressions "of painting" that I expose have always been the same, only in various forms.

The expressions are born instinctively but their realization is elaborate. Of course, since 1917 there has been a change; the world has changed, it has become unrecognizable, but not me.

I have stayed the same in my expressions. It is in this world that I live and observe.

I try, as much as possible, to reject the poetic side of my works. I think rather than realize compositions, calculate and adapt the measure to my plastic creations. It is after carefully weighing and meditating that I realize, that I fix the birth of a vision that has passed before me in a flash, sometimes in a succession of images and drawings. Instinct and calculation must be in agreement in my "new expression formula".

 

It is not from "vegetables of Aix" that our beautiful images are born, but from the noise, the stench and the mud - these things made of ether, quite useless, but which tend to appear surpass all of human possibilities, like a spiderweb in a corner.

The Experimental Institute of Art (I.N.H.U.K.), attached to the Museum of Cultural Art existed from 1919.

In 1923, this institute was recognized by the National Education Commissariat as an independent Research Organization of the Museum.

The members of the Institute Council forming the main group were :

  • Malevich, director and head of the formalist section.

  • Pounine, administrative deputy in the absence of Malevich, was an art critic, but was not in charge of research. He was considered an ideologue, but he was not. Any member of the Council in his section was considered an ideologue.

  • Tatline ran the Material Culture section.

  • Matuchin, that of Organic Culture.

  • Mansouroff, the Experimental Section.

  • Filonov realized and exhibited his painting, but did not lead theoretical works.

Malevich's theoretical work consisted in establishing a classification of the continual evolution of artistic expression, a classification he began from already existing theorists, such as Delacroix, Cezanne, the Cubists and the Futurists. To tell the truth, they were not theoreticians, but promoters of a new stage in the evolution of painting. His Suprematism represented precisely a stage in the evolution of art after Cubism and Futurism. Without a doubt it was an academic principle.

In his exhibitions he did not want to take into account his previous stages. He was only interested in Suprematism - of which he was the author and which had lasted since 1913 ; when he showed the simplest elements of his system, full of dynamism and fire, yet still very colorful at that time, in 1924, he declared the end of Suprematism. His compositions were ideally rhythmic with their color of white, black, red and sometimes he covered the bottom of a gray tone. This is the typical range of Suprematism. From 1924, he composed drawings of voluminous models that he then executed in ceramics and exhibited in 1926. These magnificent models, of dynamic construction, and perfectly useless that he "sold" as projects of habitats, he called "Planites".

 

I left Russia in 1928. The Institute was closed in 1929. Malevich, with a deep religious spirit, remained alone. He abandoned Suprematism and puts himself with great courage transitioned to figurative art, sad, but extremely expressive, harmonious and sincere.

Tatline - He is the creator of the constructive composition without theme, preceding the Suprematism, after Cubism. He creates his works with different materials: with steel, glass, wood and, of course, color. He was at the origin of the birth of Suprematism, which in 1912 was much more rhythmic and more active than that of Malevich in 1913. Tatlin was the ideologue of Constructivism. He did not deal with theoretical research.

 

Matuchine was immersed in optical experiments, close to hypnotic experiences. At that time, we were discussed about Mrs. Blavatsky. He was very interested in her experiences. It was during his youth; the motorbikes had just appeared. The classes of Matuchine were very informative. They were rather friendly talks. He was 30 years older than me. He liked our discussions. His lectures on "Eye Gymnastics" opened up the possibility of creating new expressions in painting. He called it the experience of "dilation of sight," which had become a new branch of academic education. It is a kind of analytical impressionism, which could serve as a the basis of a new structure of paintings.

Matuchine was an innovator of various experiences. Composer, a very good violinist - first violin of the orchestra of the Marinsky Theater, he personally realized a entire series of violins of producing new tones and of different forms. Known for his opera "Victory on the Sun", according to the words of the poet Kroucheneff, Malevich created the costumes and sets; it was in 1913 at "Luna Park", Officers Street. On the curtain, still cubist, Malevich places the first three forms of Suprematism.

 

Filonov stood completely apart. Both of us were in the best terms despite my lack of eagerness and my lack of admiration for his ideas to return back to the caves, with bows and arrows and the walks in the charming company of lions in the desert. Nonetheless his nudists still wore underwear. All in all, it did not suit me, but I appreciated him very much for his strict life style.

Mansouroff, that is, myself and my experimental section. My classes focused on the birth of plastic, technical and mechanical shapes, as well as shapes in construction. I observed the lifes and work of all the flees, worms, spiders, birds, beasts, and humans.

 

I was looking for commonalities in the construction of habitation among the savages - the primitive beings and the civilized. Wherever I could find them, I compared the measure and form of the aesthetic need. Since then, more than half a century has passed and I see that I am not mistaken. At that time, I was already talking about the toxicity of chemical fertilizers, the destruction of the forest and the extermination of animals. My ideas of the day are to a certain extent valid today, brief and clear, although it seems that there is no clarity, nothing can stop this tendency towards the destruction of the world, at the end of which the destroyer himself will disappear in the chaos. All these considerations I exposed at the Institute from 1922 to 1928. Crowds of people from all categories came - scholars, poets, painters, students and workers. Our popularity was great. It is true that our work did not coincide with the theory of deceit. No change occurred. In spite of the sympathy of the members and non-members of the Party, we order the chemical fertilizer from America, the fertilizer that turns and boils the earth. The land gives more wheat - now we eat Canadian bread. These electric saws are so easy to use that soon there will be no forests but the pictures of Shishkin, an admirer of forests, game and animals. It's not that I want to be a critic or a theorist, but it seems to me that a painter can give an explanation of what he does and what guides him.

 

In 1921-1922 the Association of Russian Revolutionary Painters (A.H.R.) attacks our tendency of "counterrevolutionary propaganda and triviality". But in fact we were not fantastic storytellers, we were real realists. It is useless to embellish, for everyone knows that revolutions bring misfortune. People who were willing to sympathize with change became discouraged. It's A.H.R. which obliged us to give birth to the "scientific force of persuasion" necessary for our constructive presence in the general edification of Communism. This, we recognize it today, though very timidly, and not only here, that Chemistry and Technology in joyful hands, leads us only planetary disaster.

P. Mansouroff

 

Source: Catalogue of the exhibition. Original in french translated by Johannes de Millo

Essay by Mansouroff on the occasion of the exhibition organised by the Musée National d’Art Moderne 

Centre Pompidou

12 December 1972 - 29 January 1973

Paris