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Creative Intuition

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The Russian Interpretation of Henri Bergson’s Metaphysics

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Among the artists of the Russian avant-garde, there was general agreement that the new art forms they were seeking were not to be found in the visible world but rather the artist’s own creative intuition. The true artist created freely and independently, without regard for the appearance of the objective world or conventional approaches to its depiction. In their explorations of the artistic process and the creative endeavor, the artists found inspiration in Henri Bergson’s concept of intuition as a philosophical method, which the French philosopher had formulated in his 1903 essay “Introduction à la métaphysique” (An Introduction to Metaphysics). Bergson’s ideas were further developed and integrated into the larger discussion about organic perception and creative intuition within the Russian cultural tradition by the Russian philosopher Nikolai Lossky. Lossky’s own concept, which he called intuitivism, was developed as an alternative to Bergson’s philosophy; it was an attempt to unite pre-Kantian rationalism, particularly Leibniz’s monadology, with the strong tradition of mystical rationalism in Russian philosophy.Kazimir Malevich related non-objectivity in art to creative intuition and promoted suprematism as a theory of unbounded creativity that could overcome the narrow notion of art and encompass all spheres of life. In suprematism, “art advances toward creation as an end in itself and toward domination over the forms of nature.” Malevich’s suprematist elements can be compared to Lossky’s substantival agents—they are a creation of the absolute, i.e., intuitive reason, and serve as fundamental building blocks of the world. The essay discusses the Russian interpretation of Henri Bergson’s L’Evolution créatice (Creative Evolution) by Nikolai Lossky and the role Lossky’s concept of intuitivism played in the art and art theory of the Russian avant-garde, specifically Malevich’s suprematism.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Art and Art History, Jacobs University BremenGermany ; 2: Co-editor of this Experiment issue


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