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Text by Giulio Carlo Argan
Pasmore's work is a study of the perception behind closed eyes. The eyes never stop perceiving; when they no longer see external reality they see their own. The blots that we see forming and moving under our eyelids demonstrate that the eyes live and pulsate even when they are not informing us about the reality of the world. In other words, the eye does not stop perceiving and imagining: it could be said that an optical imagination precedes the mental one, but this would not be right since the distance between the physical and the physic or, worse, the spiritual, is a prejudice, as is demonstrated by Pasmore's painting. On the other hand, images behind closed eyes come from visual emotions, so they have a mnemonic component, just like verisimilar imagination or the fantastic. From a scientific point of view Pasmore's quest is illuminating because the image is taken and studied before it actually becomes an image of something. It could be said more correctly that the generatrix is a pure luminous emotion, that is, of a light that exists but illuminates nothing and generates images that are not images of anything. Pasmore's work should thus be seen in the perspective of modern research on the substance and the intellectual function of perception; indeed, it is the most easily traceable back to its origins because it considers the physical reality of the eye independently from its function.
Pasmore, however, goes far beyond the rationalist limit of that visual-kinetic research. His images are formed according to a sense of exactness that is not, however, one of geometry. Their structure is similar to that of English-language poetry from Eliot to Pound; and I am naturally not alluding to poetic content but to the same substantial purity of the images and the words. With those poets the construction of the phrase takes meaning away from the words until they are left as the purest harmonized sounds. They do not thereby lose all their meaning: they simply transform the referent into inherent and consubstantial semantic content. In this way, at least, I explain a strange quality in Pasmore's painting: paradoxically he creates silent poetry just as those poets create blind paintings. And his painting is smooth and light but, like the poetry, charged with thought: one of the discoveries of modern philosophy is that thought is not necessarily ponderous and profound but can be light and transparent. So it becomes difficult to separate philosophy from painting and poetry, but so it was in other eras as, for example, in Greece before Socrates.
Pasmore's shapes come from the blots formed before the eyes when closed and that disappear when the eyes are opened, but this return to the primary moment of experience does not annihilate the past. It was in the English culture of the Enlightenment that the blot was a genetic factor in art; although believed to be random, as Cozens explained, nothing can ever really be so. How many unconscious movements of the hand and incalculable physical laws have been brought together to produce the ink blot as we see it on a sheet of paper? And so, is it not the product of a continuity between our being and that of the world? Pasmore, it should not be forgotten, was a landscape painter fluctuating between nature, symbols and dreams, before he moved on to non-figurative art. Then he closed his eyes and discovered the delicate, unexpected imagination of the blind. Freed from the domination of the sensation, this has its own extraordinary exactness or accuracy that is not derived from a mathematical model and yet is as precise as a geometrical figure; and without discourse, only through its internal rhythm, it generates other images and a movement whose cause is unseen, and yet is fascinating. Pasmore has lived in Malta for many years now. The bright light that makes him close his eyes is that of the Mediterranean; thus with his eyes closed, he continues to be, as he always was, a great painter of imaginary landscapes. Just like Turner.