Kunstsammlung NRW

Undercover Museum Visit: The “Sprayer from Zürich” Views Malevich

Recently, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen received its largest donation to date, consisting of one painting and 43 drawings by the revolutionary Russian artist Kazimir Malevich.

Harald Naegeli, the Swiss artist long since better known as the "Sprayer from Zürich," is particularly excited about these delicate drawings, which embody the most important stylistic traits of Malevich's art from 1911 to 1930. Naegeli, himself a subtle draftsman, whose self-assured sprayed linear figures have resulted in legal prosecution, at the same time generating excitement in the art world, has had a look at the drawings of his Russian colleague at the K21.

For #32, Gerd Korinthenberg accompanied the Düsseldorf-based, publicity-shy Swiss artist undercover through the exhibition.

#32: Harald Naegeli, what are your first, spontaneous thoughts upon encountering this series of drawings?

Naegeli: With Malevich, the marvelous constellations and elementary forms readily seduce us into thinking that they are the intended goal, that the aesthetic effect is an end in itself. But they are instead the means toward a new process of seeing, of looking, of thinking!

#32: You always carry a pencil and notebook, sketching what you see as often as possible with rapid strokes. In your view, how did Malevich proceed? What is the most conspicuous result of seeing these drawings?

Naegeli: To begin with, you have to imagine the artist drawing on the pages of his notebook on a table. His gaze and his drawing activity were then necessarily directed concretely downward, toward the floor, in order to suggest an infinite space, the one that confronts us frontally on the wall. The lightly tinted paper represents this endless space, which contains enormous energies, and which the artist renders visible symbolically with his typical geometric forms.

#32: Unmistakable and omnipresent in the drawings of Malevich, the creator of the revolutionary "Black Square," are the frames, the evidently rapidly sketched rectangles that surround his motifs.

Naegeli: With a rectangle, which appears like a window or a shaft, he focuses the gaze - his own and that of the beholder - on the unique Suprematist figuration. At times, you discover a smaller figuration alongside the window, like a satellite.

When you view the drawings from a greater distance, the constricting windows vanish, and everything passes over into an imaginary space. If you want to approach the essence of these drawings, close-up viewing - with the nose practically touching the page, in order to perceive the finest modulations of the pencil strokes and shading - is just as useful as a view from several meters away.

The same is true for my urwolke (Primeval Cloud), infinite drawings composed of from the tiniest ink marks, where infinite space is symbolized by the infinite addition of time.

Text and interview: Gerd Korinthenberg

The exhibition Imi Knoebel - Honoring Malevich will be on view until August 30, 2015 in the Bel Etage of the K21 Ständehaus. Featured are Imi Knoebel's latest wall and three-dimensional works alongside Suprematist works by Kazimir Malevich from the holdings of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.


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