'One evening in the autumn of 1949 I was walking up and down Peckham Rye station. It was dark and wet and I was trying to decide what to do. I was coming to the end of my first term at Goldsmiths School of Art and was feeling upset and frustrated. I had arrived anxious to make a start, to find a firm basis for the work that I hoped lay ahead. It seemed that I was unable to get to grips with some of the real problems of painting, which I felt sure existed but which I could not even begin to identify.
A copy I had made of Van Eyck's Man in a Red Turban had been included in my portfolio submitted for entry to Goldsmiths, and this had probably helped me to get a place. Competition was stiff. People were still returning home after the Second World War and had priority in further education. These were men and women in their thirties who, delayed only by the slow pace of demobilisation, came directly from active service. They were overjoyed to be back in civvy street and to have the chance of making a life as artists. Coming straight from school, I counted myself lucky to be there. But this cultural climate did not diminish the challenge of what to do at Goldsmiths. On the contrary, it intensified it, as it became clear that this problem was felt by many of us in different degrees.