Curatorial Art Practice in London
The CORPUS of works by VICTOR PASMORE (1908-1998), one of the most influential British Abstract Artists, has been placed in dialogue with the new work by Toby Paterson in a major exhibition at the DLI Museum and Art Gallery, in Durham (UK). Specifically, An Experiment in Total Environment, running December 2012 – March 2013, re-visits and sheds new light to the the fascinating utopian project of Peterlee New Town (Durham, UK), for which Pasmore designed the concrete structure ‘Pavilion’, at Sunny Blunts in 1970.
Pasmore’s involvement in this pioneering urban design project should not come as a surprise. Back in 1950 he was commissioned to paint a large mural for the Regatta Restaurant for the Festival of Britain in 1951, a process which involved close association with the concerned architects. A few years later, as Head of the Department of Painting at King’s College (Durham University), he inaugurated “The Developing Process”, a course within the department of painting and sculpture, focusing on the ‘basic form’ for art teaching. In addition, his research on synthesising architecture, painting and sculpture enabled him in 1954 to be appointed Consulting Director of Urban Design for the South West Area, and in 1967 to get actively involved in the Peterlee New Town project in Durham.
‘I regard the synthesis of painting, sculpture and architecture as a development involving either complete integration or a relationship of different individual forms, images and processes’, Pasmore said in 1958. As mentioned in the catalogue raisonné (2RC Editrice, Milan, 1980) dedicated to the artist, the ‘Pavilion’ for Peterlee was the occasion to use visual arts as a function of urban design, an idea previously experimented in the model presented at the 1955 international competition for the Fermi Museum of Science and Art in Chicago.
More than forty years later, the exhibition at DLI Museum and Art Gallery re-examines his influence and role in the Peteerlee project. As described in the press release, ‘the exhibition looks at Peterlee beyond the pavilion by collecting a carefully selected group of Pasmore’s works from the period when he was sactively designing the town and arranging them alongside an expansive installation of new work by Glasgow-based artist Toby Paterson.
An Experiment in Total Environment will seek to reinvest the contemporary town with some of the under-appreciated visual qualities obscured by the passage of time, whilst taking account of the sometimes problematic idealism that attended its creation.
It hopes to encourage a fresh view of this unique environment, considering it as a mature landscape with innate visual and spatial interest that has endured economic difficulties and neglect. Whereas the abstract imagery of Pasmore’s work parallels the development ofhis design philosophy, Paterson takes a subjective position on the results and explores present day Peterlee, finding architectural value in a town ripe for reappraisal.’