Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, 1915 was exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2015. At the time I was running Art Psychotherapy groups for adults with enduring mental health difficulties, and I was interested in paintings that appeared void of the artist. I began by looking at Mark Rothko’s colour fields and painting swathes of layered colours before I came across Malevich’s Black Square painting.
At first I felt his Black Square was the ultimate void. I wanted a light-absorbing black paint that could best convey a void: I used Stuart Semple’s Black 2.0. Not just because of its ability to symbolise the chasm between the demands of the protestors and the position of the government, but because it’s inception echoes another conflict. He developed it in opposition to Anish Kapoor buying the exclusive rights to Vantablack (developed to be used inside telescopes) to prevent anyone else access to it.
However, upon learning the context of Malevich’s rebellion against the official Socialist Realism genre, Malevich’s Black Square was now paradoxically laden with symbolic significance. A hundred years on, pro-democracy protestors in my childhood home of Hong Kong, wearing ‘uniform’ black, rebel against imposition by another communist government.