Victor Pasmore

graphic works - 1990

Text by Giulo Carlo Argan

Pasmore's work is all a research on perception with closed eyes. The eyes never cease to perceive, when they no longer see an external reality they see their own. The spots that we see forming and moving under the eyelids show that the eyes live and pulsate even when they do not serve to inform us about the reality of the world. In short, the eye does not cease to perceive and imagine: it could be said that an optical imagination precedes mental imagination, but it would not be right because the separation between physical and psychic or, worse, spiritual is a prejudice and Pasmore's painting proves it. On the other hand, images with closed eyes come from visual emotions, therefore they have a mnemonic component, just like the plausible or the fantastic imagination. From a scientific point of view, Pasmore's research is illuminating because it captures and studies the image before it is the image of something. More correctly it will be said that the generator is a pure luminous emotion, that is, of a light that exists but does not illuminate anything and generates images that are not images of something. Pasmore's work must therefore be framed in modern research and on the substance and the intellectual function of perception; indeed, it is the one that goes back to the origin the most because it considers the physical reality of the eye regardless of 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.