The break into abstraction; a pioneering artist inspiring the way we think.

A pioneer in abstract art

Victor Pasmore

Victor Pasmore’s break into abstract art was inspired by Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee. Notions of nature and the aim to create a dynamic harmony in art stood for the future of society and was present within Pasmore’s work from an early stage. In 1947 Pasmore developed a purely abstract style under the influence of Ben Nicholson and became a pioneering figure of revival in Constructivism after the war. Interestingly, Pasmore’s abstract work, often in collage and construction reliefs, pioneered the use of new materials and was sometimes on a large architectural scale as seen with the Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee, constructed in 1969.

The Apollo Pavilion is an architectural sculpture constructed from expressed reinforced concrete and was purely used an ‘abstract form through which to walk, linger and play in’. The aim of this elevated art form was to ‘lift the activity and psychology of an urban housing community on to a universal plane’, however it is argued the object continued to provoke, as opposed to becoming a warm comforting blanket of heritage for the surrounding community.

Was there a contextual link missing within Pasmore’s work that deemed this piece unsuccessful?

Despite these arguments, the Pavilion was seen as a great example of how contemporary artists can translate their concerns into wholly architectural terms, the monument aimed to embody the progressive values of the post-war settlement that strove to create better living environments for all and in recent years has gained Grade II* listed status and undergone extensive restoration.

In 2021 JS+P were presented with a brief to transform a ground floor shell on the corner of Lever Street and Stephenson Square, Manchester, into a forward-thinking, thought provoking lighting showroom. The studio wanted to merge function and product-led elements aspired to by the client, with a cleverly arranged spatial layout that felt endearing, exciting and visually composed. It was felt the space should be like a gallery or set, a place where the client could showcase the very best of lighting products in a non-cluttered and focused manner. The space was visually decaying and although stable appeared to need a level of cleaning up to reduce aesthetic repairs to the interior architecture, a new intervention was proposed within the space. The design consisting of horizontal and vertical ‘plains’ of product panels, slotted within the existing ‘carcass’ to create a sheer contrast between old and new. The concept aimed to show contrast in material through use of stainless steel, mirrors and bold accents which felt clean, crisp and contemporary and would furthermore emphasise the decaying nature of the old through reflections and colder hues. The team collaborated closely with the client to determine precise locations for lighting products which would be used to showcase their capabilities against the backdrop of the ‘set’ and further create a connection between the internal architecture and the new interior scheme.

Naturally, the composition of the ‘new’ intervention is inspired by Pasmore’s balanced compositions and has been arranged around the existing building in order to overcome criticism centered around context. Concepts were developed through 3D modelling, paper maquettes and lighting experiments to ensure an optimised floor plan that worked from both a client and visitor perspective. The approach felt methodical and should bring a new lease of life as a showroom, design community base and event space for Manchester’s Northern Quarter.