AnOther's Favourite Abstract Artists: In Their Own Words

Pin It
Dóra Maurer, Seven Rotations 1–6, 1979
Dóra Maurer, Seven Rotations 1–6, 1979© Dóra Maurer

AnOther presents a celebration of abstraction through the words of its most exciting practitioners

A century ago, Kasimir Malevich premiered his Black Square, a looming, formidable work of abstraction that began a movement away from figurative art towards “art for art’s sake” – the notion, according to the Tate, that art could be created from beautiful, random shape as well as form. It was revelatory, and ever since artists have toyed and tumbled with this concept, creating works as diverse as Dan Flavin’s monuments, Kandinsky’s dreamscapes, Mondrian’s grids, Dóra Maurer’s montages and Aleksandr Rodchenko’s experimental photography.

Inspired by themes as diverse as politics and the quest for beauty, the resulting works are currently being celebrated in the Whitechapel Gallery’s new show. To mark the exhibition, AnOther has chosen our abstract highlights, accompanied by thoughts on abstraction and art by the key practitioners themselves.

“The truly modern artist is aware of abstraction in an emotion of beauty.”
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)

“The square is not a subconscious form. It is the creation of intuitive reason. The face of the new art. The square is a living, regal infant. The first step of pure creation in art.”
Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935)

“We speak of concrete and not abstract painting because nothing is more concrete, more real than a line, a colour, a surface. A woman, a tree, a cow; are these concrete elements in a painting? No. A woman, a tree and a cow are concrete only in nature; in painting they are abstract, illusionistic, vague and speculative. However, a plane is a plane, a line is a line and no more or no less than that.”
Theo Van Doesburg (1883-1931)

“No artistic success has given me such satisfaction as the sight of a peasant or a worker buying a length of material designed by me.”
Lyubov Popova (1889-1924)

“The sun as the expression of old world energy is torn down from the heavens by modern man, who by virtue of his technological superiority creates his own energy source.”
El Lissitzky (1890-1941)

“Photography has all the rights, and all the merits, necessary for us to turn towards it as the art of our time.”
Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956)

“I always use ‘monuments’ in quote marks to emphasise the ironic humour of temporary monuments. These ‘monuments’ only survive as long as the light system is useful.”
Dan Flavin (1933-1996)

“The museum is the world, it is the everyday experience.”
Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980)

"There was a traditional view that I grew up with. Artists had a high calling. They should not let things out of their studio that were bad."
Peter Halley (1953-)

“I try always to be intimate with the world… with everything I can, to feel love for it, or interest in it. To be intimate you have to open yourself, to be fearless, to trust what is around you, animate and inanimate. Then you start to change the scale of things, of the public and private.”
Gabriel Orozco (1962-)

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015 is at the Whitechapel Gallery until April 6.