Design today for tomorrow: this enrichment activity for G&T students looks at an art movement as a starting point for designing and making a product

Suprematism is an art movement focused on fundamental geometric forms (squares and circles), which formed in Russia in 1913.

The work of the Suprematist artist Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) was revolutionary. He emerged from a background of Futurism, Léger and Picasso. In the manifesto for ‘Rayonism’ (1913), he wrote: ‘We declare the genius of our days to be trousers, jackets, shoes… and to go hand in hand with house painters.’

  • What do you think he meant by this?

This is an interesting starting point for our main activity.

Malevich was a revolutionary artist and a prolific artist, as well designing and painting, teaching and organising, aiming to take art into a new state of activity and challenge. The work of Malevich passed through a sequence of phases that led him in 1913 to a type of fragmented collage, which he called ‘nonsense realism’ and then later to ‘Suprematism’. What followed next were the famous and startling paintings of white squares on a white canvas.

But what about the teacups, teapots and other ceramics that he also designed?

  • Research the works of Malevich – both paintings and his sculptural works.
  • Focus on the ceramic work of Malevich and his ceramic revolutionary colleagues.
  • Abstract what you consider to be the radical (revolutionary aspects) of these domestic products (teacups and teapots) and consider his attempts to bring traditional, practical and revolutionary design together in all he did.
  • Design your own tea set – teacups and teapots that go beyond anything imaged by Malevich or any of the revolutionary artists you have looked at.

Design today for tomorrow. When you have produced your design make a maquette* and, depending on your circumstances, make it, fire it, drink tea from it, exhibit it, sell it.

*Maquette: a scale model of an object, building, creature or character, often intricately detailed and painted to show the colour and texture of the surfaces, skin or clothing. Maquettes are often made in film studio-production art departments, and can be digitised in order to create a three dimensional image or simply used for reference in texture painting, lighting tests and usage trials.

Thanks to John Senior for this activity.

Senior, J, and Whybra, J (eds) (2005) Enrichment Activities for Gifted Children, Optimus Publishing, ISBN: 09546874-6-9