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Victor Pasmore with Grey Development in Three Movements 1968-9 Courtesy of The Artists Estate and Marlborough New York and London Photo by John Pasmore

Feel the art at Hastings Contemporary

Hastings Contemporary is open again with Covid regulations intact and two very different exhibitions. First you walk through Quentin Blake’s rather forlorn We Live in Worrying Times and then enter something completely different in Victor Pasmore’s abstract exhibition: Line & Space. After five months in the cultural desert HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went to visit the gallery.

Quenin Blake: We Live in Worrying Times

Unfortunates©Quentin Blake

Unfortunates©Quentin Blake

The much loved artist Quentin Blake’s paintings and drawings are quite bleak in contrast with his familiar uplifting characters and colour. His exhibition We Live in Worrying Times has been in the gallery for a while but under wraps because of Covid and only able to be seen accompanied by a robot. Another reality of present day life. However, in spite of lockdown there was a HOT review. This time, after all those months of lockdown, it seems bleaker, the bowed figures of people traipsing through blasted landscapes and the portraits seem to  resemble Dickensian characters.

Victor Pasmore: Line & Space

On through the doors to the Victor Pasmore: a completely different atmosphere. Colourful and playful. Pasmore is an important figure in the history of twentieth century art, although I feel he is not so well known as some of the Cornish artists. That could have been due to his living mainly in Malta from the mid sixties.

He is known as an abstract artist, though his art passes through various different phases, always experimental. From figurative to influences from Gauguin, Modigliani and Matisse, to Turner and landscapes to abstract paintings and constructions/collages made from wood and paper.

A view on looking at paintings

Pasmore Untitled 1993 oil and pencil on board

Pasmore Untitled 1993 oil and pencil on board

For those who find abstract art difficult Pasmore is quite prosaic when he talks about painting. It can be like composing: “As the old masters talked of painting as ‘silent poetry; so in abstract painting we can speak of ‘visual music’”.  That description is a good portrayal to those bewildered by abstract art but who can relate to classical music.

I once heard Phill Jupitus (I think) explaining his gallery visits. He walks quite quickly around a gallery/exhibition, then when he has completed his circuit, he goes back to the ones that he remembers or which had affected him in some way and will stand in front of them for as long as it takes –  five, ten minutes, sometimes as much as half an hour – and simply stand and stare. A great tip. Try it;  feel the art, hear the music, listen to your emotions, you might be surprised.

Paintings with a mind of their own

Pasmore did not underestimate the general public. You don’t have to have studied History of Art to appreciate modern art. He said  that he had had more perceptive, instinctive comments from children than art scholars.

He also commented in a BBC film about contemporary art – Artists on Film: Scenes from Working Lives – that nothing is new, everything looks like something else, a bird was there before an aeroplane, a circle before a wheel. He often started a painting with a blob, a dot, a line, poured paint and, if he was relaxed, and the ingredients right, the painting would take off and literally paint itself. I have heard writers say similar things when writing stories and characters won’t behave obediently; they exert their own free will and go their own way.

Pasmore Voice of the Ocean 1989

Pasmore Voice of the Ocean 1989

Some paintings can be finished in a trice. Others take years to complete. Pasmore subscribes to the sayings of both James Whistler and Picasso that a painting might only take 20 minutes –  and cost thousands of pounds – but it is the result of years of experience.

I didn’t realise that the exhibition is a retrospective until after I was going down the stairs. It covers the larger galleries down and upstairs. At the back, in the smaller, seaside rooms, there is his early, beautifully painted, figurative work which doesn’t look like the same artist. But then early work rarely does.

Since I was short of time and being bundled out I didn’t realise it was Pasmore’s work and didn’t have sufficient time to look at them properly which was a shame.

A few things to note. You have to book your place and time. At present it closes at 4pm. All in all, though the visit was a tad short, it is good to see the gallery open again and the exhibitions are worth a visit.  Both artists are and were continually experimenting. An artist does not stand still. There is always something new to discover. 

The exhibitions are planned to be open until October at Hastings Contemporary, Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings, TN34 3DW. Open Friday-Sunday, 11am-4pm.


Posted 19:07 Wednesday, Aug 26, 2020 In: Visual Arts

Also in: Visual Arts

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