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Kenneth Martin  (1905 - 1984)

1905: Born in Sheffield
1923-29: Worked in Sheffield as a designer
1930: Married Mary Balmford
1946-67: Visiting teacher at Goldsmiths' College of Art, London
1948-49: First Abstract Paintings
1951: First Kinetic Constructions
1969: First Chance and Order works
Death of Mary Martin
1971: Awarded OBE
1976: Honorary Doctorate, Royal College of Art
1984: Died in London

Kenneth Martin is widely regarded as one of the fathers of British Constructivist Art. Having been trained in the realist tradition of Sickert, he came to abstraction in the late 1940s after working as a designer and painting naturalistic pictures for two decades. Before his death in 1984, Kenneth Martin not only sought to redefine abstract art but to align thought, feeling and imagination with the method of creating a work of art.

As his art evolved he discovered new means of inventing and manipulating basic structural elements. With his Screw Mobile sculptures of the early Fifties he investigated the dynamics of movement exploiting the tension or contrast between stillness and the changes caused by the functions of twist and rotation.

Towards the end of his life Kenneth Martin embarked on a series of paintings and works on paper which he called the Chance and Order Series. In the simplest versions, a grid was set up on paper and its points of intersection numbered. Corresponding numbers were drawn 'out of a hat' ie. by chance. Each pair of numbers then became a line on the grid. Although the underlying structure remained the same the resulting correspondences produced a seemingly endless succession of combinations. With these works there was therefore a double invitation to explore the paintings and drawings as statements about an inventive process, and to contemplate the products that were generated by that process. The combination of randomness and definite rules left the artist free to invent in an exact sense. You can only develop order but not chance, you can only use the chance again.


1929-32: Studied at the Royal College of Art, London
1927-29: Studied at Sheffield School of Art


1976: Midsummer Prize, City of London
1965: Gold Medal, President of the Italian Council of Ministers, on the occasion of the International Congress of Artists and Critics at Verucchio

Works by Kenneth Martin 

Chance And Order I
Kenneth Martin 1971
Chance And Order II
Kenneth Martin 1971
Chance And Order III
Kenneth Martin 1971
Chance And Order IV
Kenneth Martin 1971
Chance and Order V
Kenneth Martin 1971

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