The Hidden Gem of Valletta

Have you ever wondered what a racing horse must feel when the race has been done and won, only to watch the jockey receive the prize? Well, the internationally-renown modern abstract artist, Victor Pasmore (1908-1998) has. And such were his words when, i¬n a conversation with leading Maltese contemporary architect, Richard England, Pasmore confessed his poignancy at seeing his works sold off at incredible prices, his achievements and creations passed on to another owner, while having to contend himself with well intended praises, no doubt, and a pat on the back.

Yet, Pasmore was never truly about the end result, the finished product. His philosophy of art was one which allowed him continuous development, experimentation and growth – an endless, at times cyclical, process in search of the image, rather than a representation of it. Pasmore, the tireless explorer, was that kind of person who would look at a scribble, tilt his head and with gleaming seriousness explain that “what mattered initially was not what our scribble would represent, but what it might become.” No wonder students loved him.* But yes, even in the art-world, a driven artist is, first and foremost, an optimist. And Pasmore had to have plenty of optimism, especially when in 1949, he decided to shock everyone by breaking off completely with the past and enter into the hazy, uncertain world of abstraction. As it turns out, this hazy, uncertain world was Pasmore’s playing field of choice, which kept him occupied for the rest of his life – a field where he was free to roam, observe and experiment with painting, printing, reliefs, constructions, architecture and even literature, in an unwavering effort to liberate the image and create something completely independent of everything else.

It was also, in this energetic and prolific phase of his career that, following a chance encounter during the Venice Biennale of 1960, Victor Pasmore together with his wife, Wendy, paid a visit to the island of Malta. Looking out of the plane window while descending onto the island, Pasmore couldn’t help noticing “the white, cubist-like houses,” as he himself described them. And so, from the busy streets and hanging grey sky of London, Pasmore eventually chose one such “cubist-like house” in 1966 as their permanent residence - an airy farmhouse, bathed in Mediterranean light, amid the fields of the quaint little village of Gudja. What might have come across to his peers as a suicidal career move, turned out to be an unprecedented and ideal occasion for Pasmore to quench his artistic thirst. Indeed, never in his long artistic career had he been more prolific.

A selection of Victor Pasmore’s creations, including drawings, reliefs, acrylic, oil and spray paintings, constructions and composite works can be viewed in the Victor Pasmore Gallery which is open to the public between Monday and Friday, 11.00am-3.00pm. Entrance is free of charge and gallery talks are provided daily at 1.00pm.  The gallery is located just 5 minutes away from the Valletta main bus terminus, next door to the annexe of the Central bank of Malta.

The Victor Pasmore Gallery was set up by the Victor Pasmore Foundation in collaboration with the Central Bank of Malta in November 2014, and is being presently managed by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti. For more information about the gallery, lecture programme, workshops and other related activities, kindly send an email on or call on +356 2250 3360.


*Victor Pasmore was employed as a part-time teacher at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts (1942-43) and as a visiting lecturer at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London (1949-1953). This was followed by his appointment as Master of Painting at King’s College Durham University (1954-1961), where he introduced a ground-breaking foundation course in basic form, entitled The Developing Process.