Illustrated companion

In the late 1940s Victor Pasmore evolved rapidly from the relative naturalism of his paintings of the Thames at Chiswick (p.187) to the austere abstraction of his constructed reliefs such as 'Abstract in White, Black, Indian and Lilac' in the Tate Gallery collection [T00166]. This painting belongs to an intermediate phase, in which he evoked landscape sensations through a limited vocabulary of basic forms, notably the spiral and the square. 'Square Motif, Blue and Gold: The Eclipse', in the Tate Gallery collection [N05974], is one of a series of paintings based on the square which preceded those based on the spiral. In both series Pasmore deploys rich and evocative colour. Pasmore wrote of this work: 'The coast of the inland sea is, in this picture, a sea coast of subconscious experience. It does not refer to any coast known or seen by the artist. The word "inland" here denotes this extreme subjectivity. The picture was one of a limited series of landscape themes developed by means of a free construction of pure form elements, either the spiral line as in this case, or the square as in "Eclipse". By developing and arranging these forms in certain ways and by emphasising their emotive qualities an image finally formed suggestive of certain landscape forms.' On the subject of the spiral, he wrote that he had been particularly influenced in developing it as a motif by a woodcut print of a great curling wave by the Japanese artist, Hiroshige.

In the end these paintings did not seem to Pasmore sufficiently abstract. In particular he felt that they still created spatial illusion, which abstract artists have in general tried to eliminate, on the grounds that it compromised the truth of the two-dimensional nature of painting. For this reason Pasmore began to make reliefs, in which the space is real, and in these he achieved his goal of pure abstraction.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.221