A Quest for Identity


Spiral Motif in Green, Violet, Blue and Gold: The Coast of the Inland Sea (1950)

Spiral Motif in Green, Violet, Blue and Gold: The Coast of the Inland Sea (1950)

I didn’t know anything about Victor Pasmore before I went to the exhibition of his work currently on at Pallant House Gallery, although I was familiar with one of his paintings without knowing it was by him. During years of drooling over pictures in art books and magazines, I must have seen reproductions of his Coast of the Inland Sea, and it made a lasting impression on me: it’s a bold image of swirling lines, graphic marks and a sophisticated simplicity. It’s a lyrical abstract landscape, and I love it.

Paris Cafe (1937)

Parisian Café (1937)

So, it was a bit of a shock to walk into the first gallery in this exhibition, and see Pasmore’s early paintings. The young Victor was obviously inspired by Sickert’s impressionistic scenes of everyday life, and the pastel drawings by Degas of women washing themselves. In 1937, Pasmore was involved in setting up the Euston Road School, which was dedicated to realism, the traditions of figurative painting and disciplined observation. It was all very British and turned its back on wild, expressive avant-garde art across the Channel.

Reclining Nude (1942)

Reclining Nude (1942)

But the war brought an end to the school and – after a short stint in the army, followed by imprisonment for desertion and being a conscientious objector – Victor painted a series of views of the Thames, very much in the manner of Whistler’s subtle and luminous paintings of the same subject, with a touch of the Turneresque.

The Quiet River: The Thames at Chiswick 1943-4 by Victor Pasmore 1908-1998

The Quiet River: The Thames at Chiswick (1944)

In the mid-1940s, Victor seems to have taken a sudden interest in Post-Impressionism, taking inspiration from the work of Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Seurat and exploring new ways of painting using shifting viewpoints and pointillist dots; he also experimented with Cubism, and studied the writings of Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian and Arp. Embracing the European modern art he had previously shunned, Pasmore developed a distinctive way of painting with patterning, stylisation and abstract shapes.

Triangular Motif (1949)

Triangular Motif (1949)

In the 1950s, Victor turned his attention to creating relief constructions, an art form between paintings and sculptures: the first ones were made of painted plywood and have a rough-and-ready handmade character; the later pieces incorporate Perspex, and look machine made.

Synthetic Construction: White and Black (1966)

Synthetic Construction: White and Black (1966)

When he returned to painting, he produced a series of abstracts dominated by simple shapes in a strong colour, edged with minimalist black lines, and integral frame. In his later years, Pasmore set up his studio in Malta, where he painted big, bold, colourful abstracts and continued to create relief constructions.

Yellow Abstract (1961)

Yellow Abstract (1961)

This exhibition shows the amazing variety of Victor Pasmore’s work as it traces his story from realism to abstraction. Was he was a restless spirit constantly seeking an ever-elusive answer to his own personal artistic questions? Or did he simply enjoy chopping and changing? Did he thrive on novelty? Or just get bored with his own work? Who knows?

Victor Pasmore


Personally, I’m relieved to find an artist I can identify with: I don’t know from one day to the next whether to focus on being an abstract painter or a digital artist or a photographer or a writer. Maybe I can be all of them…

Victor Pasmore: Towards a New Reality at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, is on until 11 June.



24 Hours in Bath

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey: a fine example of Perpendicular Gothic.

The Hot Springs

Sign on the wall of the Roman baths.

Circulating Library

Circulating Library in Milsom Street.

Weir at the River Avon

A view of the weir on the River Avon, by Pulteney Bridge.

Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge, built in 1774.

The Weir 2

Lesser black-backed gulls on the weir.

Quiet Street

Quiet Street.

bath 2 (1024x913)

Amazing architecture near the Roman baths.

Window on Pulteney Bridge

Window and graffiti on Pulteney Bridge.



Art on the Pier

Creative Waves

During a recent stroll along the seafront, I came across Art on the Pier, an exhibition of work including a series of displays by children from local schools. The kids had been briefed to ‪creative selfies in a variety of ways with a variety of media: photography, collage, drawing, wax resist, clay, fabrics, buttons, wood and wire. The results are brilliant.

I found some really fine photographs by local artists on another part of the pier. The creators of this art on the pier thing are Nadia Chalk and Vanessa Breen, who are professional artists, designers and art educators. They set up a not-for-profit company called Creative Waves, to bring some inspiring public art into the Worthing and Adur community (creativewaves.co.uk). Well done to them, I say – it’s great to see the arts are alive and well in this dreary old town.

A Close Encounter of the Bird Kind

Two Swans

I met these two beautiful creatures near Swanbourne Lake in Arundel. We were feeding the ducks when the swans came over for some food. They came very close, and as I was taking photos, one of them leapt out of water and stood right in front of me. Blimey, it was big! I remembered that people used to say swans were vicious and able to break a man’s arm with no trouble, so I was a tiny bit scared. But nothing terrible happened. In fact, it was rather an exciting moment.