Design: Nicolai Mikhailovich Suetin (1897-1954)
Manufacturer: State Porcelain Factory, Saint Petersburg, approx. 1922-23
Dimensions: 14.5 x 12 cm (w x h)
Materials: Porcelain, glazed, on-glaze painting
Inv. No. Ov 089
Suprematism was the name by which Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) referred to the Russian avant-garde art movement that he founded and that he characterised as “objectless sensation”: an absolutely abstract artistic expression found predominantly in painting but also in architecture and the applied arts. Malevich derived the name Suprematism from the Latin supremus (the highest). The aim of this modern style was to create a new form of ‘icon painting’ and, hence, a new form of folk art.
Nikolai Suetin was Malevich’s most loyal student, a fact that is evident from this writing set designed by Suetin: a red circle with finely nuanced bars and rectangles in red and black that almost seem to hover over the white-glazed ground. None of these shapes is mathematically perfect and none of the lines are parallel, thus creating an impression of movement. By these means, the Suprematists succeeded in making invisible energies visible.
However, it was impossible to reconcile utopian artistic ideas with political aims, as would become instantly clear in 1932 with the introduction of state-decreed ‘Social Realism’. Also, the materials chosen for the writing set (finest porcelain) and the set’s functionality (writing as an expression of education) already betray the notion of folk art: this kind of art was for the intellectual elite.