Anyone familiar with abstract algebra will be intrigued by Kazimir Malevich's concept of the zero of form. Russian painter Malevich was one of the first pure abstract art painters and as early as 1913 he created his infamous Black Square painting in a style which he called suprematism. To Malevich the square was "the zero of form" and one may wonder if this idea was inspired by the concept of zero in abstract algebra.
With respect to numbers one can define an additive zero in abstract algebra:
a + 0 = a
Here the zero is an object that doesn't change another object (under addition). Numbers themselves are abstract since they only represent a property of a (collection of) object(s): how many there are. They aren't actual, tangible objects. Thus we dare to generalize the additive zero and ask ourselves:
How does this relate to Malevich's zero of form? It does only in the way that one tries to find a parallel between the two concepts and the question arises: what is the zero of form applied to abstract art, that obeys abstract algebra's definition of zero? How does one add forms to paintings that don't change the paintings? Without further ado we note that the zero of abstract algebra is not Malevich's zero of form, after all, any visible addition to a painting changes it; adding an invisible form is a trivial solution, which in science means as much as no solution at all.
What did Malevich really mean with the square being the zero of form?
