From Malevich’s square to Fischinger to abstract animation in the digital age

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther


The Genre of abstract animation is investigated from a practice-based perspective by tracing the theme o Malevich’s abstract square from painting to digital animation in the contemporary context. Beginning with the avant-garde artist Malevish’s paintings ’White on White’ and ‘Black Square’ as ultimate statements on non-representational form that defines the term ‘abstract’ in art, the basic image of the (Malevich) square is traceable through to the cinematic moving-image. The square reappears in colourful movement and rhythm in the early abstract animation films by pioneering artist-filmmaker Oskar Fischinger. The Square is reiterated, in direct reference to Malevich, in contemporary abstract animations. From its early beginnings abstraction in animation ran parallel to abstraction in the visual arts, yet the unique form of abstract animation has continued consistently to the present day alongside other forms of animation. Reflecting the blurred boundaries between painting and animation, as in Fischinger’s pioneering work, abstract animation has persisted throughout the developments of animation processes, techniques and technologies, utilising film-based as well as current digital technologies. Contemporary auteur, abstract animation examples that make direct reference to the Malevich square, in this discussion include ‘Nemumel’ (2014, Sawako, Japan), ‘Black Rectangle’ (2013, Rhyane Vermette, USA) and ‘Interior’ by the author ( 2013, Sabrina Schmid, UK). Through the particular imagery, concepts and processes, these abstract animations reassert or revisit some of the ‘purist’ views on animation where the fundamental elements of animation are seen as composed purely of basic shapes, forms, colours, rhythm, timing and movement, synchronised to sound, to evoke an aesthetic experience in the viewer. Further important components within this discourse are the expanding platforms for the screening and exhibition of abstract animation, namely specialised abstract festivals, festivals including focused abstract programs, international touring programs and a growing resource of abstract animation available through online archives and collections.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2014
EventAnimation and Public Engagement Symposium 2014 - Bradford, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Nov 201512 Nov 2015


ConferenceAnimation and Public Engagement Symposium 2014
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


Bibliographical note

20-minute audio-visual symposium presentation.

Cite this

Schmid, S. (2014). From Malevich’s square to Fischinger to abstract animation in the digital age. Animation and Public Engagement Symposium 2014, Bradford, United Kingdom.