Press View: Thursday 9 March 2017
In spring 2017, Pallant House Gallery presents a major exhibition on British artist Victor Pasmore (1908 – 1998). Focusing on the radical change of direction in the artist’s career between 1930 – 1969, 50 key paintings and sculptural reliefs show how Pasmore reinvented himself as one of Britain’s foremost exponents of abstract art, having previously been known as one of its leading figurative artists. Later described by art historian Herbert Read as ‘the most revolutionary event in post-war British art’, this experimental period saw Pasmore’s work progress towards a new pictorial language and representation of reality.
By the beginning of his professional artistic life in the late 1930s, Pasmore had quickly established himself as an assured painter of lyrical landscapes, figures and still-life studies in a style that drew upon his familiarity with the work and writings of a number of post-impressionist masters such as Pierre Bonnard. His work received official sanction in the form of private patronage from Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery, and it was Clark’s financial support that enabled him to devote himself entirely to his art and teaching at the newly founded Euston Road School with William Coldstream and Claude Rogers. Typical of the objective approach of the Euston Road period is a group of tender portraits and nude studies of his wife Wendy from the early ’40s.
Nothing seemed to suggest the major change in direction Pasmore’s work was to take two years after the end of the Second World War. Only in retrospect is it possible to glimpse the first tentative explorations towards more formal concerns of composition that were to lead to his total renunciation of representational art. From Pasmore’s works and writings, a fascinating picture emerges of the years from the late 1940s to the early 1950s when landscapes of Hammersmith incorporating increasingly suggestive formal structures led to his first fully abstract paintings and a series of authoritative collages. These were quickly followed by a number of paintings featuring spiral patterns, the most notable of which in the exhibition is The Snowstorm commissioned by the Arts Council for the Festival of Britain in 1951. Around 1955 the artist’s search for an objective abstract language led to his constructed reliefs made from pre-formed industrial materials.
Pasmore’s conversion to abstract art was made in the face of considerable critical hostility. His experiments in sculptural form and spatial relationships led to a number of architectural commissions culminating in his work for a housing estate at Peterlee, County Durham. One of the latest works in the exhibition is Pasmore’s maquette for the Apollo Pavilion at Peterlee.
Victor Pasmore: Towards a New Reality tours from Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham and is a partnership project between Djanogly Gallery and Pallant House Gallery. The exhibition has been curated by independent curator Anne Goodchild with Neil Walker, Head of Visual Arts Programming at Djanogly Gallery. An illustrated book published by Lund Humphries accompanies the exhibition, including essays by Anne Goodchild, Alastair Grieve and Elena Crippa. It is available in the Pallant Bookshop.