Room 3

Early Paintings, 1951–4

Sea creatures such as urchins and jellyfish, which were included in Growth and Form, re-appear in paintings such as Particular system and d’Orientation. These works reflect Hamilton’s increasing concern with questions of perspective, using circular black dots to describe focal points, whose tentative grids map out different perspectival systems, while also echoing the proportions of the actual canvas.

In different ways his works took apart the premises of classical fixed-point perspective painting by trying to describe vision in motion over time. As Abstract Expressionism and Informel painting were beginning to be shown and appreciated in London, Hamilton recognised that his investigations could inspire new approaches to abstraction.

Hamilton took a job teaching in Newcastle in 1953 while continuing to live in London. The train commute inspired another series of paintings whose titles punned on the phrase ‘train sit I on’. When he looked out of the window and focused on the middle distance, faraway objects seemed to move in the same direction as the train, while nearby objects appeared to move in the opposite direction. Using diagrammatic arrows and images of trees and cars, Hamilton described this phenomenon of modern visual experience.