Malevich's Suprematism - Nature's Sublimity [Scroll horizontally to view images and vertically to read text.]


















The above images combine photographs of nature with "MDM-4" ( from "My Dear Malevich" ( to equate the sublime with Suprematism.

The sublime:

In aesthetics, the sublime is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual, or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement, or imitation.

The development of the concept of the sublime as an aesthetic quality in nature distinct from beauty was first brought into prominence in the 18th century in the writings of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, and John Dennis, in expressing an appreciation of the fearful and irregular forms of external nature, and Joseph Addison's synthesis of concepts of the sublime in his "The Spectator", and later "The Pleasures of the Imagination".

Edmund Burke's concept of the sublime was developed in "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful" (1756). He was the first philosopher to argue that the sublime and the beautiful are mutually exclusive. The dichotomy is not as simple as Dennis' opposition, but antithetical to the same degree as light and darkness. Beauty may be accentuated by light, but either intense light or darkness (the absence of light) is sublime to the degree that it can obliterate the sight of an object.

Immanuel Kant, in 1764, made an attempt to record his thoughts on the observing subject's mental state in "Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime". He held that the sublime was of three kinds: the noble, the splendid, and the terrifying. He considered both the beautiful and the sublime as "indefinite concepts, but where beauty relates to the understanding, sublime is a concept belonging to reason, and shows a faculty of the mind surpassing every standard of sense."

In order to clarify the concept of the feeling of the sublime, Schopenhauer listed examples of its transition from the beautiful to the most sublime in his "The World as Will and Representation." For him, the feeling of the beautiful "is pleasure in simply seeing a benign object. The feeling of the sublime, however, is pleasure in seeing an overpowering or vast malignant object of great magnitude, one that could destroy the observer."

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel considered the sublime to be a marker of cultural difference. He argued that the disembodiment and formlessness of art forms inspired the viewer with an overwhelming aesthetic sense of awe. Rudolf Otto compared the sublime with his newly coined concept of the numinous. The numinous comprises terror, Tremendum, but also a strange fascination, Fascinans.

Victor Hugo touched on aspects of the sublime in both nature and man in many of his poems. In his preface to the play, "Cromwell", he defined the sublime as a combination of the grotesque and beautiful as opposed to the classical ideal of perfection. He also dealt with how authors and artists could create the sublime through art.

German philosopher and theorist of aesthetics Max Dessoir founded the "Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft", which he edited for many years, and published the work "Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft" in which he formulated five primary aesthetic forms: the beautiful, the sublime, the tragic, the ugly, and the comic. "The experience of the sublime involves a self-forgetfulness where personal fear is replaced by a sense of well-being and security when confronted with an object exhibiting superior might."

According to Jean-François Lyotard, the sublime, as a theme in aesthetics, was the founding movement of the Modernist period. He argued that the modernists attempted to replace the beautiful with the release of the perceiver from the constraints of the human condition. For him, the sublime's significance is in the way it points to an aporia (impassable doubt) in human reason; it expresses the edge of our conceptual powers and reveals the multiplicity and instability of the postmodern world.

According to Mario Costa, the concept of the sublime should be examined first of all in relation to the epochal novelty of digital technologies, and technological artistic production: new media art, computer-based generative art, networking, telecommunication art. For him, the new technologies are creating conditions for a new kind of sublime: the technological sublime. The traditional categories of aesthetics (beauty, meaning, expression, feeling) are being replaced by the notion of the sublime, which after being natural in the 18th century, and metropolitan-industrial in the modern era, has now become technological. (

Suprematism by Kazimir Malevich

"Under Suprematism I understand the supremacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth. The so called "materialization" of a feeling in the conscious mind really means a materialization of the reflection of that feeling through the medium of some realistic conception. Such a realistic conception is without value in Suprematist art .... And not only in Suprematist art but in art generally, because the enduring, true value of a work of art (to whatever school it may belong) resides solely in the feeling expressed." (more)