Victor Pasmore, C.H., R.A. (1908-1998)
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Victor Pasmore, C.H., R.A. (1908-1998)

Abstract in White, Black, Maroon and Ochre

Victor Pasmore, C.H., R.A. (1908-1998)
Abstract in White, Black, Maroon and Ochre
signed with initials 'VP.' (on the reverse)
painted wood on panel relief construction
47½ x 47½ in. (120.7 x 120.7 cm.)
Painted in 1957-66.
with Marlborough Fine Art, London.
with New Art Centre, Salisbury.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 5 November 1999, lot 88, where purchased by the present owner.

probably London, Marlborough Fine Art, Victor Pasmore, June 1966, no. 17, as 'Relief Painting in white, black, ochre and maroon, 1956-66'.
The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on loan.

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‘The problem of giving comprehensible shape to new conceptions has been the constant occupation of artists in the last hundred years … Today, however, abstract art enters a phase of construction … It is the transformation from a process of destruction to one of construction, which places the abstract artist at the beginning, and not the end, of an era of subjective art. In this new phase of art, the object is invested in the material with which the artist works (V. Pasmore, ‘Abstract, Concrete and Subjective Art’, Broadsheet 2, July 1952).

In 1951 Pasmore was lent a copy of Art as the Evolution of Visual Knowledge by the American artist Charles Biederman in which he looked to progress the study of nature’s structural processes by artist’s such as Cézanne and Mondrian. For him the logical development of reducing nature to paintings of carefully orchestrated horizontals and verticals was to advance into the real, physical space of the constructed relief. This resonated with Pasmore who was already investigating the concept of pure abstraction through paint and collage and an extended correspondence ensued as the two artists discussed the origins as well as the future of abstraction. Both believed that pure abstraction could not be attained through the two dimensional surface of a traditional canvas or the three dimensional mass of sculpture. Pasmore wrote that, ‘Abstract painting, being tied to area, cannot define space; only imply it. The technique to define, rather than imply, space in the abstract demands a technique which is free both of mass (sculpture) and of surface (painting)’ (V. Pasmore, Statements, London, ICA, 1957). Out of such beliefs Pasmore’s ‘constructions’ were born.

In order to realise these new and revolutionary expressions contemporary materials from the swiftly advancing machine age of the 1950s were demanded. The hand of the artist became redundant as Pasmore looked to use perspex, formica, glass and machine-turned painted wood in these new three dimensional pictures. Indeed this utilisation of technology was vital for the creation of art in this new mechanised age as it became both the inspiration for and the tool of these new artistic creations, for how could an artist truly create a contemporary work of art without utilising the current technology?

Indeed, this use of mechanised materials not only inspired a new form of expression but questioned the historical distinctions and theoretical boundaries set between the different artistic disciplines of painting, sculpture and by extension, architecture. Pasmore himself wrote that, ‘I regard the relationship between painting, sculpture and architecture, considered as a synthesis, as being of two kinds. That of free forms functioning as complimentary and activating forces. That of complete integration whereby all three factors abandon their particular identity and unite as a single operation’ (V.Pasmore, ‘Connections Between Painting, Sculpture and Architecture’, Zodiac No. 1, Brussels, 1957).

Pasmore was able to realise this desire of ‘complete integration’ when he was appointed head of the landscape design team for the South West Area of Peterlee, the radical new town being built in County Durham. On the Sunny Blunts housing estate he designed the Apollo Pavilion in which you can palpably see this coming together ‘as a single operation’ of painting, sculpture and architecture.

Abstract in White, Black, Maroon and Ochre, combines Pasmore’s explorations into pure abstraction with his environmental projects, distilling formalised geometric structures into three dimensional pictures. Harmony is achieved through the balancing of positive and negative spaces created by form and colour. The carefully chosen hues of maroon and ochre counter balance the cool mathematical precision of the machine produced wood reliefs. Indeed for Pasmore, experiencing Abstract in White, Black, Maroon and Ochre was no different to experiencing the Apollo Pavilion at Peterlee New Town.

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