Edwin John Victor Pasmore
3 December 1908 – 23 January 1998
The British artist Victor Passmore was perhaps the most influential ‘abstract’ artists working in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. His work can be found in many private and public collections around the world including Tate Britain; the Royal Academy of Arts, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The British Council; the Yale Center for British Art and numerous regional British galleries.
Despite showing exceptional artistic talent in his youth, Victor Pasmore worked as a clerk at the London County Council, attending evening classes at the Central School of Art. In the 1930s, he exhibited with the London Group and the London Artists’ Association. His earliest landscape paintings reflect his admiration for the paintings of Turner and the French Impressionists. He co-founded the Euston Road School with fellow artists William Coldstream and Claude Rogers, working directly from nature and drawing inspiration from Sickert’s Urban Impressionism
Pasmore saw an exhibition of work by Pablo Picasso in 1947 which inspired his move from figurative to abstract art. His earliest abstract paintings were painterly and rich in colour and still clearly referenced the landscape. However these became increasingly abstracted as he absorbed the work and writings of Kandinsky, Mondrian, Arp and the other pioneers of abstract art.
By 1951, Pasmore began concentrating on making reliefs. Initially constructed from painted plywood he began incorporating sheets of transparent Perspex. This use of contemporary materials combined with constructivist fabrication techniques was to bring his works into close relation with modern architecture.
In 1952 Pasmore was appointed leader of the art course at Kings College, Durham based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. There he developed a general art and design course, “The Developing Process”, within the department of painting and sculpture. This course, inspired by the Bauhaus movement, became the model adopted for higher arts education across the UK. He was also a supporter of Richard Hamilton, giving him a teaching job in Newcastle.
Pasmore was very successful in collaborating with architects, starting with the Kingston Bus Depot in 1950, and The Festival Of Britain wall mural in 1951. He then collaborated with Richard Hamilton on ‘an Exhibit’, a multi dimensional installation that departed from the conventions of the traditional artwork adorning the walls and existing spaces of the gallery.
He liked the system that created an exhibition environment in its own right that also played on the abstract layouts and relationships that were created between panels. Although the panels were static, new experiences of panel groupings were available to the spectator passing through them – the viewer’s mobility gave them the opportunity to generate their own compositions.
These ideas would ultimately feed into his work in Peterlee where from 1955 until the 1970s he was Consulting Director of Urban Design for the Peterlee Development Corporation.
The work of the Peterlee design team on the Sunny Blunts Estate bears the strong imprint of Pasmore in its human scale and integration of buildings with the landscape. The centerpiece of the estate was Pasmore’s abstract public art structure, the Apollo Pavilion. It was a controversial design that in time attracted much local criticism. Pasmore remained a staunch defender of his work, returning to the town to face critics of the Pavilion at a public meeting in 1982.
In 1961 Pasmore left Newcastle. A contract with Marlborough Fine Art in London allowed him to return full time to painting, printmaking and constructions. He had began to make a few paintings again towards the end of the 1950s, experimenting at first with different types of “basic” form but he did not become fully involved with painting again until around 1963/64 a short time before his large retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London. In 1966 he moved to Malta where he acquired a house and studio.
Pasmore was excited by the architecture and landscape of Malta and divided his time between there and London. He began to experiment with printmaking first with Kelpra Studios in London and later with the 2 RC workshop in Rome.
Though he claimed that his theories and approaches to his art had established by the time he began working in Malta, his output during this period was characterised by a range of intense colours and his paintings and prints became more organic and free flowing.
Victor Pasmore died in Malta in 1998. Throughout his life his appetite for new ideas and experiences was inexhaustible and his work remained challenging and relevant. He left an extremely rich legacy for British art.
If we take a sheet of paper and scribble on it vigorously we become involved in the process of bringing into being something concrete and visible which was not there before. The shape and quality of what we produce is the outcome of forces both objective and subjective: a particular tool, a rotary action and a human impulse. The more we concentrate on this operation the more we are drawn into it both emotionally and intellectually. But as the line develops organically, in accordance with the process of scribbling, we find ourselves directing its course towards a particular but unknown end; until finally an image appears which surprises us by its familiarity and touches us as if awakening forgotten memories buried long ago. We have witnessed not only an evolution, but also a metamorphosis. 
Catalogue introduction to Victor Pasmore – The Space Within – New Paintings 1968-69, The Marlborough Gallery, London, 1969
To view examples of his work go to Victor Pasmore, Paintings and constructions