Artist of Ukrainian-Polish origin Kazymyr Malevych was born in Kyiv, his artistic work has close ties with Ukraine and not merely in terms of location. Problems of the then-time Ukraine are reflected in his works, for example, the fate of rural population during collectivization. For a long time Malevych same as other avant-garde artists whose life and work were connected to Ukraine, was classified as “Russian avant-garde”. One of the reasons for that was lack of historic documents that would lay ground to research of the artist’s Ukrainian period. Such archive documents were published in the end of 2015. They will become the basis for the first international conference to be held in Kyiv.
Kyiv, September 7, 2016. On October 6-9 Kyiv will host the First International Scientific Conference focused on artistic work of Kazymyr Malevych named “Kazymyr Malevych: the Kyiv Aspect”. The event is to unite leading researchers of Malevych’s artistic activities from France, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Belarus, Israel and Canada.
“Such well-known researchers as Jean-Claude Marcadé and Andrei Nakov accepted our invitation. It is due to them that the term “Ukrainian avant-garde” appeared. […] We have received a total of 30 applications, biggest part of the applicants will take part and make interventions at the conference,” said organizer of the conference Tetyana Filevska, researcher of Malevych’s art work, author of the book “Kazymyr Malevych. The Kyiv Period 1928-1930” at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. The event is organized by the NGO “Malevych Institute” and is supported at both the state level – by the cultural diplomacy department of Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture, Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre, and by international and national cultural organizations including Polish Institute in Kyiv and Ya Gallery. Ukraine Crisis Media Center also supports the event.
Ukrainian Period of Malevych
The conference aims at discussing the Kyiv period of the artist’s work that comes into the spotlight for the first time in the book “Kazymyr Malevych. The Kyiv Period 1928-1930”. The book contains recently discovered texts that relate to Malevych’s work at the Kyiv Institute of Arts as well as the artist’s articles published in 2015 that had been never published before and that became a scoop right on the 100th anniversary of the “Black Square”. “Kazymyr Malevych is the most researched artist in the world, […] however very little was said about his Kyiv period due to the lack of documents. Documents discovered last year made it possible,” said Tetyana Filevska. “We will be discussing not only the 1928-1930 years because Malevych’s connection to Kyiv is much wider and includes his birth, childhood, family ties, his studies at Murashko art school and constant connection to Kyiv’s artistic community.”
It has been for quite a while that Malevych was referred to as a Russian artist both in post-Soviet countries and in the West, because there was almost no information about his Ukrainian period of artistic work. As a result art experts could not explain why the works of this period differ so much from his other works. “They could not understand why Malevych’s works had no color in Saint Petersburg and suddenly became so colorful; they were wondering where the second cycle of works portraying rural population came from and in which way it should be researched and classified. When the Ukrainian aspect was discovered everything fell into place,” explained Dmytro Horbachov, professor, researcher of Ukrainian avant-garde, honorary head of the conference’s organizing committee. “Malevych liked and sympathized with the rural population a lot, ornaments on the stoves had a huge impact on his art work. […] When they ‘broke the spine’ of the rural population in 1929 (collectivization), it was a personal tragedy to him and started painting helpless peasants choosing yellow-and-blue as a background, formally it was a landscape.”
Breakaway from Ukraine’s colonial past
Wide scientific discussion of the artist’s Kyiv period of work is important not only in the scientific dimension but also in the political one – as part of Ukraine’s breakaway from its colonial past, when the country was dissolved in the huge empire. “Malevych theme is an example of how historic justice needs to be restored and decommunization needs to be carried out. It is an example of how art may change everything, that’s why it was of interest that he keeps being considered Russian not Ukrainian,” noted Leonid Marushchak, Arts Department curator at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
“In such a way we are trying to rediscover our modernist culture that takes us from the 19th to the 21st century. It is a powerful signal for the international artistic community and a power communication occasion for cultural diplomacy,” said Pavlo Bilodid, cultural project manager at the Kyiv-Mohyla Business School.
Conference crowdfunding and archives on show
Charity auction will be organized at the Ukrainian House in Kyiv on September 21 to support the conference. A series of artists and arts institutions agreed to donate their works for the auction. Among them is a Ukrainian fashion designer Fedir Vozianov who presented his Malevych-inspired fashion collection several years ago and is preparing a surprise for the upcoming auction now.
Tetyana Filevska also said that on the conference days the National Art Museum will display its Malevych-related archive. “We are also preparing an exposition of embroidered works from Verbivka village based on Malevych’s sketches. We will also present the (recently found) materials from the Kropyvnytsky archive that we published in the book, so that all interested will be able to see them,” she added.