Experimentation fever takes hold


“What I have tried to do is to take a painting and break it down - somewhat like a child's jigsaw puzzle – and then reconstruct the whole again embryonic style.”

In the early 1960s, Ribeiro broke away from the structural forms of his earlier works, to begin an intensive experimental phase. Patrick Boylan noted traditional painting techniques had ‘begun to wear thin on this restless young painter’. In his search for a new medium, the new synthetic plastic bases that were being introduced for commercial paints caught his interest and so began ‘several hundred’ experiments on hardboard, plywood, canvas and paper using Polyvinyl Acetates (PVA).

With guidance from companies such as ICI and Ciba Geigy, Ribeiro began exploring colouring and pigmentation, producing experimental mixes of oil paints, high dispersal dyes and PVA. These companies provided Ribeiro with free PVA samples from their industrial stock, the smallest a 22-gallon drum, alongside coloured dyes. This triggered a new abstract style, such as in his landscapes and ‘Heads’, such as The Warlord.

Meanwhile, sculptures and ceramics and a limited set of graphic art emerged from his studio, two of which were commissioned by Salman Haidar of the Indian High Commission (India's former Foreign Secretary) to be the covers for the India Annual Reviews.

Ribeiro held exhibitions in several of London's leading West End galleries of the day, and featured in Nicholas Treadwell's mobile art galleries which took art around Britain.

Having accomplished the desired effect he had wanted in his faceless series, Ribeiro's work entered a new chapter. Souza had left for New York in 1967 urging him to follow. He stayed, but with the political climate in Britain becoming increasingly hostile, Ribeiro joined forces with his fellow artists, to counter discrimination.

A photograph of Lancelot Ribeiro