1963 - 1969

“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.”

Ribeiro, 1972 Commonwealth Institute lecture

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) at different rates of plasticity.

Ribeiro's Belsize Park studio, c.1964

With guidance from companies such as ICI, Courtaulds, Magros and Ciba Geigy, Ribeiro began exploring colouring and pigmentation, producing experimental mixes of oil paints, high dispersal dyes and PVA. Intrigued by his experimentation, these companies provided Ribeiro with free samples of PVA from their industrial stock, the smallest a 22-gallon drum, alongside small bottles of coloured dyes. This triggered a new abstract and semi-abstract style. His landscapes and still lifes had a distorted perspective while ‘heads’, such as The Warlord, utilised a “root or tuber-like form which was to be the nucleus on which all the work since 1965 was based”.

Ribeiro with his favourite painting, The Warlord, c.1966

Meanwhile, his oeuvre expanded to include wood sculptures, ceramics and surreal drawings. 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 1964 and 1965 India Annual Reviews.

India Annual Review cover, 1964

Ribeiro held exhibitions in several of London's leading West End galleries of the day, including the Piccadilly, Crane Kalman, Rawinsky and Mount Galleries. It featured in Nicholas Treadwell's mobile art galleries - a fleet of double-decker buses and vans which took art into Britain's suburbs to potential customers who had walls “waiting to be filled”.

Treadwell's Mobile Art Gallery from the second fleet (copyright Nicholas Treadwell)

Having accomplished the desired effect he had wanted in his faceless series, Ribeiro explained:

“I could go on endlessly to produce painting after painting - interesting perhaps - but somewhat meaningless and self-plagiarizing.”

Ribeiro, 1972 Commonwealth Institute lecture

Ribeiro's Belsize studio, 1960s

His work then 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, who collectively sought to counter discrimination with a passion.