My Dear Malevich, Tom Chambers

This homage to Kazimir Malevich is a confirmation of Tom R. Chambers’ Pixelscapes as Minimalist Art and in keeping with Malevich’s Suprematism – the feeling of non-objectivity – the creation of a sense of bliss and wonder via abstraction. Chambers’ action of looking within a portrait (photo) of Kazimir Malevich to find the basic component(s), pixel(s) is the same action as Malevich looking within himself – inside the objective world – for a pure feeling in creative art to find his “Black Square”, “Black Cross” and other Suprematist works.

“My Dear Malevich”

The above Pixelscapes … as an homage … were found within a photo of Kazimir Malevich (Ukranian-born artist, 1878-1935) via magnification, filter treatment (halftone) and isolation of the pixel(s) in Photoshop. Malevich founded the art movement, Suprematism in Moscow, 1913 as a parallel to Constructivism. Suprematism (“supremacy of forms”) is a study in abstraction conceived in itself … non-objective and not related to anything except geometric shapes and colors … and a precursor to Minimalism. He states, “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. I took refuge in the square form and exhibited a picture which consisted of nothing more than a black square on a white field (see Pixelscape MDM-18 [above, scroll right] which is similar). It is filled with the spirit of nonobjective sensation which pervades everything. This is no empty square, but rather the feeling of non-objectivity.”

This homage is also a confirmation of Chambers’ Pixelscapes as Minimalist Art and in keeping with Malevich’s Suprematism … the feeling of nonobjectivity … the creation of a sense of bliss and wonder via abstraction. Chambers’ action of looking within the Malevich photo to find the basic component(s) … pixel(s) is the same action as Malevich looking within himself … inside the objective world … for a pure feeling in creative art to find his “Black Square”, “Black Cross” and other Suprematist works.

And there’s a mathematical parallel between Malevich’s primitive square (“Black Square”) … divided into four, then divided into nine (“Black Cross”) … and Chambers’ Pixelscapes. The pixel is the most basic component of any computer graphic, and it can be represented by 1 bit (a 1 if the pixel is black, or a 0 if the pixel is white). And filters (tools [e.g., halftone]) in a graphics program like Photoshop produce changes by mathematically modifying pixel values based on the values of neighboring pixels.

So as Chambers mentions in his Pixelscapes article, Malevich and those Minimalists who followed later would probably have had great appreciation for this basic and mathematical component … the pixel. And beginning in 2000, his Pixelscapes were somewhat of a revelation for him when compared to the non-objective works of Malevich and other Minimalists generated many years before the pixel and Digital Revolution. It seemed that Chambers had managed to do what they had done through the simple process of magnification, treatment and isolation of the pixel(s).

Review by JD Jarvis, Art Critic/Artist and coauthor of Going Digital: The Practice and Vision of Digital Artists (ISBN 1-59200-918-2) (Note: This review was written for the first exhibition of “My Dear Malevich” at the Art Gallery, Fine Arts Department, Zhaoqing University, Zhaoqing, China (April 2 – 15, 2007.)

“Can an exhibition of art be both physical and virtual, a historical yet avant-garde, forward-looking homage with one foot in the current 21st century digital art scene and the other in the rich 20th century history of Modernist art? The answer is, yes, if you are Tom R. Chambers and your base of operations is the Fine Arts Department of Zhaoqing University in the Guangdong Province of China.

For several years now, Mr. Chambers has treated his students at Zhaoqing University and their peers at selected universities ranging from Wake Forest University, the University of Louisville, the Art Institute of Boston, the State Art Museum of Novosibirsk, Russia, Rensselaer Polytechnic in Troy, New York (among others), as well as, anyone with access to the web to a cross cultural mix of student digital art and photography. Based on themes from ‘Self/Soul’‘Into the Future’ or the color ‘Red’ these projects are brimming with culture and art. Chambers has infused his students with his own sense of wonder, introspection and a desire to examine and communicate.

Which brings us to one of Tom Chambers’ own most recent and personal exhibitions entitled ‘My Dear Malevich’ on display from April 2 through 15 in the art gallery of Zhaoqing University. This is the physical/virtual part of this exhibit. Wherein we see on the web a presentation of what must be, in real-time and space, a very striking exhibit. Consisting of many, large-size, black and white prints of hard-edged geometric designs, the project is also an homage to the Russian artist who carried earlier Cubist work entirely into the abstract and non-representational. Kazimir Malevich founded the Suprematist art movement around 1913 and opened the door to true non-objectivity in modern art.

This exhibition expands inward (so to speak) from research into the progenitors of Minimalism, an artform in which Mr. Chambers has been experimenting for several years with his series of ‘Pixelscapes’ exhibitions. Utilizing the most basic unit of any computer graphic; the single pixel, his ‘Pixelscapes’ serve as colorful pathways into the purely metaphysical aspects of art which, by virtue of presenting so little, leads the viewer to so much in terms of their own emotional content.

With ‘My Dear Malevich’, Chambers describes for the viewer a process by which he travels (via magnification) into a digitized photograph of Malevich and discovers at the singular pixel level arrangements which echo back directly to Malevich’s own totally abstract compositions. This process is such an apt metaphor for Malevich’s own journey deep with himself, as well as, his discovery of the non-objective soul of art contained within the objective world as to constitute a form of visual poetry.

This visual poetry contains the ironic connection between Modernist philosophy which moved visual art from figurative representational pictures of the physical world into an expressive and emotional world of abstraction; and, the digital realm in which the purely abstract unit of one pixel off – one pixel on, has been utilized to reproduce once again, with breath taking accuracy the physical world. Now, Chambers’ has shown a path by which this tool, which so often serves hyper-reality, is forced to reveal the abstract soul at its very core. Was Malevich thinking in “pixels” without knowledge of the term and even many decades before the fact of the technology, which utilizes this basic component? His association with Futurism might account for this sort of metaphysical connection. And, so it is that we have the aspect of this exhibition that straddles a whole century of art. From the earliest beginnings of Modern art to the latest developments in the tools by which the newest works are being made. The ground that is covered is immense, but the time between the two virtually disappears in this exhibit. It seems that with ‘My Dear Malevich’ it is not a matter of what is old (or new) being new (or old) again; but that what is ‘old’ and ‘new’ exists simultaneously. That which is ‘gone’ is also, at the very same time, ever-present.”


1) My Dear Malevich, Suprematism Infinity: Reflections, Interpretations, Explorations (Group Show), Atrium Gallery, Harriman Institute, Columbia Institute, New York City, New York, U.S.A., December 1, 2015 – January 22, 2016 (pdf). Click on SIRIE to view photographs (by Cho Eun-mi) of the opening. Note: this work was donated to the Russian American Cultural Center (RACC) Art Collection, New York City (letter).

2) My Dear Malevich, Black Square Interpretations and Other Suprematist Explorations (two-person show with Max Semakov), CaviArt Gallery, Russian Cultural Center, Houston, Texas, March 6 – April 7, 2015. Tom R. Chambers and Max Semakov/MiMs Art Group come together to pay tribute to Kazimir Malevich through a series of artworks that interpret his “Black Square”, and explore Suprematism. Chambers is based in Houston, Texas, and Semakov is based in Moscow, Russia, which moves this collaboration to a higher plane of exchange between the citizenry of two countries – America and Russia. Chambers and Semakov through their interpretations and explorations move Suprematism in the direction of Neo-Suprematism. Their artworks accentuate and cultivate non-objectivity – the supremacy of pure feeling in creative art. Click on BSIOSE to view photographs (by Cho Eun-mi) of the opening.

3) My Dear Malevich, Beyond the Borders (The Guest section) (Group Show), Novosibirsk Municipal Center of Fine Arts, Novosibirsk, Russia, November 3 – 21, 2010.

4) MDM-1 (My Dear Malevich) (Group Show), Homage: Contemporary Art in Digital Media, Art Institute of California, San Diego, California, U.S.A., September 11 – October 15, 2010.

5) MDM-1 (My Dear Malevich) (Group Show), Homage: Contemporary Art in Digital Media, Escondido Arts Partnership Municipal Gallery, Escondido, California, U.S.A., July 9 – August 21, 2010.

6) My Dear Malevich, Novosibirsk State Art Museum (as a part of the aniGma-4, Fourth Novosibirsk International Festival of Digital Imaging), Novosibirsk, Russia, May 10 – June 10, 2007 (view installation).

7) My Dear Malevich, Art Gallery, Fine Arts Department, Zhaoqing University, Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province, China, April 2-15, 2007 (view installation).

8) My Dear Malevich, Museum Of Computer Art [MOCA], U.S.A., April – May, 2007.

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