Sunday, 18 May 2014

Victor Pasmore on 'Square Motif, Blue and Gold: The Eclipse' (1950)

Victor Pasmore, having been a founder member of the Euston Road School in 1937, had long been considered a latter-day Impressionist when he abruptly started producing abstract paintings in 1948. His work was the source of lively debate throughout the fifties, at first resulting from his turn to abstraction, and then through giving up painting in favour of three-dimensional constructions.
In 1950 Pasmore painted Square Motif, Blue and Gold: The Eclipse, which was purchased by the Tate the following year. Soon after the purchase of that painting he was interviewed by David Sylvester for the BBC Third Programme. In this interview, Sylvester prompted Pasmore to talk about the thinking behind this work:

Sylvester: ...Let's take the picture in the Tate, Square Motif in blue and gold: The Eclipse. It's obviously divided into land and sky, even though the land consists of distinct squares, triangles and circles. And in the sky there's a green sun with a red circle round it and spirals radiating from it.

Pasmore: This picture started simply with coloured squares and triangles etc. The desire to divide the canvas into two halves, top and bottom, immediately imposed the idea of a landscape. And from this point I became, as it were, language-minded in relation to the picture.

Sylvester: Do you mean that from then on you were trying to invent an ideal landscape, like Claude's?

Pasmore: Oh no. Once a feeling like this is established, it gets into one's brush and is then objectified on the canvas without any recourse to direct representation at all. I believe that there's the construction of matter and the construction of thought, the quality of form and the quality of feeling are somehow intimately related. The operations of the mind and the emotions are in their own way, an analogy of material forces. We see squares, and that makes us think not only of squares, but in squares. In the same way we speak of warm and cool colours, calm lines, voluptuous forms. With regard to my picture in question, I had no intention, at the start, of painting a landscape, let alone an eclipse of the sun. The red ring round this circle is solely the result of the necessity of giving life to the colour...when it came to giving the picture a title for catalogue purposes, this red ring suggested the idea of an eclipse.

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