"Underground art" on the Square

The term “Russian avant-garde” relates to the region what was then Russian Empire and later USSR as many of these avant-garde artists were born or grew up in what is present day Belarus and Ukraine (including Kazimir Malevich, Marc Chagall, Aleksandra Ekster,Vladimir Tatlin, Wassily Kandinsky, David Burliuk, Alexander Archipenko and others) and encompasses an umbrella of different but closely related movements namely neo-primitivism,suprematism, constructivism and futurism. 

A non-conformist and in itself critical of bourgeois art, the movement was welcomed and openly encouraged by the early Bolshevik state.

A small provincial town of Vitebsk in modern day Belarus, held particulary important place in the evolution of the avant-garde movement. It was not only the birth place of Marc Chagall but also where Kazimir Malevich tought his theories and suprematists and costructivists laid foundation of new aesthetics.

In late 1918, Vitebsk Museum of Modern Art (Витебский Музей Современного Искусства) was formed and headed by Chagall and Malevich and later by Alexander Romm.

In four short years, from 1919 – 1923, a vast volume of work was produced under the auspices of People's Art School (Народное Художественное Училище), a total of 120 were selected to the Museums opening in 1920, amongst them Malevich’s “Red Square” the inspiration behind our Gallery’s name.

While the collection contained a huge variety of visually different styles, it had no purpose that goes beyond the individualistic expression or point of view. It is exactly this purposelessness that give avant-garde its autonomy, in the way that artists expression is not created to conform or appeal to its audience.

However, the Party’s support did not last long as its grip on all segments of Soviet life began to tighten, the avant-garde movement was slowly suffocated and by the time of party Congress in 1934 almost completely extinguished and its chief proponents marginalised or forced to exile. 

The State, after the Congress of 1934, laid down rules for what became known as "Socialist Realism".

The art again had a purpose and that was to glorify the communist system and create what Lenin called "an entirely new type of human being “New Soviet Man”. Stalin described the practitioners of socialist realism as "engineers of souls".

For four decades Socialist Realism was the only officially sanctioned art behind the Iron Curtain. It was impossible to see the works of modern art on display and in isolated system with no links with the rest of the world it was very hard to obtain publications or books that show or discuss the modern art.

Only for a brief period under Khrushchev during mid-1960s, what was known as “thaw” , some volume of books and publications have managed to penetrate beyond the iron curtain. That brief spell of liberalisation was quickly extinguished but the seeds of dissent have been planted and new generation of artists started to produce the works that were non confirming to the State line in what is to became known as Soviet non-conformist art or “undeground art”.

With a great deal of anticipation and excitement, Red Square Gallery can confirm that we have secured an agreement with Walera Martynchik one of the chief proponents of “underground art “movement.

Walera Martynchik was born in Belarus in 1948, ironically, not far from Vitebsk.

Since graduating from Belarusian Academy of Fine Arts in 1972 Walera Martynchik had been developing his unique style based on continuation Russian Avant-Garde tradition, emerging at that time computing art and philosophy of complexity.

In the 1970s Walera had a chance to visit studios of underground artists in Moscow well known now  as Celkov, Yankelevsky and Rabin which had profound stimulating effect on his art.


After Perestroika he was a founder and a curator of  "Forma" the very first group of underground artists in Belarus. Creating such a group his aim was to demonstrate  that independant cultural movement had existed not only in Moscow but in other cities and places but deep underground. Since 1990 Walera lives in the UK and exibits internationally.