Henryk Stazewski’s “Untitled Statements on Suprematism and Painting” (1924)
Translated from the Polish by Wanda Kemp-Welch. From Between
Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes,
1910-1930. (The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 2002).
• • •
1. Complete rejection of dynamism (which is characteristic of Suprematism).
2. In Suprematism the background is a passive component of the pictorial construction; only shapes produce an effect — not the picture, but shapes. The absolute union of the background and shapes into one genuine whole is achieved by the Post-Suprematist picture.
3. Complete geometricism of shapes (applied in Suprematism to increase dynamism) cannot be applied to painterly ends. Geometricism connects shapes to the picture’s boundary; anti-geometricism connects shapes with the background and with one another.
CONTRADICTIONS IN SUPREMATISM
The technique of planes connects the color plane with the pictorial plane.
The dynamism of planes throws the color plane out beyond the pictorial plane.
Abstract shapes are an attempt to create the work of pure painting — a perfect form.
The literary character of dynamic painting imposes on it an aspect of cosmic metaphysics, the neglect of form, and overgrowth of literature.
The bankruptcy of Suprematism is the proof that dynamism is not a purely plastic phenomenon.
TOWARDS FLATNESS IN PAINTING
Impressionism, analyzing light came to the assertion: the human eye accommodates the visual world in the form of flat images. The [sense of] recession of planes (in space) in painting depends on the degree of saturation with the color blue. Cubism, analyzing the construction of the picture, transfers the three-dimensional visible world onto the two-dimensional picture using mutually penetrating and overlapping planes — giving unity to the painting phenomenon located within the picture frames. Suprematism finally breaks away from the deformation of nature. Flatness.
Abstractionism and geometricism of forms resulting from the geometricism of the canvas on stretcher. A final solution to flatness and the statics of the picture is offered by Constructivism (when it deals with painting).
So-called applied art, flourishing in the time of the crafts, has been killed by the growth of technology, because the fast pace of life means that the production of utility objects places in the forefront: comfort, economy and speed [of production], instead of ornament as before.
A new notion of beauty is born — the beauty of utilitarianism.
In the whole life one senses the attempt to replace manual work with the machine. Precision. Ease. Speed.
The demand for portrait, landscape and historical painting, battle scenes, the illustration of everyday life etc. is now fulfilled by photography and cinema, both unrivalled in terms of precision, speed and low cost, compared with the work of artists formerly responding to these demands.
The development of photochemistry is eliminating former illustrative techniques, such as the woodcut etc.
In the place of the architect, digesting obsolete styles, there comes the engineer, constructing bridges, factories, mobile homes, skyscrapers, automobiles, railway carriages, ships, airplanes, docks.
Advertising demands the highest ingeniousness, expressiveness, succinctness, versatility, richness of means used, speed and constant innovation. What fascinated an hour ago, no longer interest anyone two hours later.
Radiophone and the gramophone multiply one concert a thousand-fold. However, the gramophone, surpassing all other music instruments by the richness of its means, seems to be still underrated.
[Originally published in Blok no. 1 (March 8, 1924)]