In 2011 a friend dragged me willingly along to the RA for an art exhibition called "Building the Revolution: Soviet art and architecture". I'd have to confess that I'm not naturally very cultured and probably wouldn't go near any art exhibition unless someone pushed me, but I enjoyed most of the art very much and was hopelessly smitten with photographs of Shuklov's Shabolovka Tower which is a bit like a massive pylon.
On Thursday 10 November I went to see Margy Kinmonth's new documentary film Revolution: New Art for a New World at its gala premiere (and Q&A) at the Curzon Mayfair. Tom Hollander (big fan, don't miss him in Travesties at the Apollo in early 2017) voiced the artist Kazimir Malevich.
I thought it was great - beautifully shot and in ways I'd not really seen before. The ending was gorgeous, the camera zooming in to what I think was a Malevich piece and wheeling round so that the last thing zoomed into was a black line which got bigger until it entirely took up the screen and so... fade to black. There was also a nicely unsettling use of a kind of split-screen with mirror images that was very effective when people were walking up or down stairs that I rather liked. One shot that particularly intrigued me made it look as if they were using an underwater camera but something in the Q&A made me realise that they might have just been pointing the camera into a very reflective puddle! Anyway I thought it was lovely.
One other comment that came up in the Q&A (with Kate Muir) was how lovely it was to see the art on such a massive 'canvas' of the big screen, it was certainly very immersive.
Edmund Jollife's music was great and the invigorating end credits music accompanies a nice list of all the artists discussed in the documentary and what happened to them - for a lot of them it was fairly horrendous and not at all a happy ending.
As well as paintings and sculptures we saw some fantastic footage of old films. Trams and trains featured quite a bit and we learned that trains would travel around Russia sharing art, books, ideas and screening films for everyone which is something I'd love to bring back! Imagine a cinema carriage on your commute home.
There were quite a few artists I'd never heard of who have produced gorgeous art which I've missed out on - I'd probably need to look up a list of who was mentioned in the film to get their names though.
I'd certainly never knowingly heard of Kazimir Malevich before my interest was piqued knowing that Tom Hollander was involved in the production, though I recognised some of his art as having been on display at the Royal Academy. My favourite piece of his, which wasn't on display in 2011, was his black square which is literally a black square on a white background (coincidentally there's a very similar emoji 🔳). You might think why on earth bother painting one of those (I think he painted several versions) and it's definitely one of those pieces of art that prompts those "I could paint that" comments, but I don't think anyone had done it before and it's now apparently worth about $20 million. It's quite arresting though, in any gallery setting, but in one of its displays it was boldly positioned in the room in the same place that would normally be reserved for a religious icon.
The documentary is being screened all over the place now and presumably at some point it will be on television - but I'd definitely recommend getting to see it on a bigger screen if you can. More details below.
See the documentary...
Watch this documentary in London: Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November at the Curzon Mayfair, Tuesday 22nd November at Curzon Bloomsbury, Thursday 24 November at Curzon Soho, Saturday 26 November at the ICA (with a pre-film talk from the director Margy Kinmonth) and on Friday 2nd December 2016 at the Courtauld (Somerset House).
For all screenings in other UK cities and other countries see http://revolution.film/releasedates
...and some of the art itself
See the art next year: Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 (11 Feb to 17 April 2017) at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) in London.