Kenneth Martin

Chance and Order Group VIII, Drawing 6


Not on display

Kenneth Martin 1905–1984
Graphite and ink on paper
Support: 343 × 229 mm
Purchased 1974

Catalogue entry


Pencil and ink on graph paper, 343 x 229 mm (13 1/2 x 9 in)
Inscribed by the artist in blue crayon ‘L’ top right, in pencil ‘Drawing 6 VIII/6’ bottom left and in red ink ‘second version of | (3) 17.10.71’ bottom right; a chart of numbers, variously marked, bottom right
Purchased from the Waddington Galleries, London (Grant-in Aid) 1974

Kenneth Martin: Paintings, Waddington Galleries II, London, February-March (not in catalogue)
Kenneth Martin, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, April-June 1979 (39, reproduced p.55)

Tate Gallery Acquisitions, 1972-4, London 1975, pp.197-8 (reproduced)
Andrew Forge and Hilary Lane, Chance and Order: Drawings by Kenneth Martin, London 1973, pp.7, 56-7 (reproduced in colour p.57)
Kenneth Martin, ‘Chance and Order’, One, no.1, October 1973, pp.3-6

Chance and Order Group VIII, Drawing 6 - also designated as VIII/6 - is from the extended series made up of ten groups of drawings to which Chance and Order Group VII, Drawing 6 (Tate T01847) also belongs. Dating from 1969-1972, they were sorted and numbered by the artist in preparation for their publication in Andrew Forge and Hilary Lane’s Chance and Order: Drawings by Kenneth Martin.[1] Common to all the drawings was the arrangement of linear elements between points on a grid, which were numbered and then selected at random. The direction of the lines was indicated by the addition of related bands (to the right or the left of the direction), while a sequential element was built-in by means of overlapping and colouring.

Chance and Order VIII/6 was on the same graph paper as VII/6. However, the drawing was restricted to a square, set on its point, inscribed within a four by four inch grid; this orientation had been used in earlier drawings - such as II/8 and V/5.[2] The numbering was started at the apex and ran horizontally across the intersection points of the four by four grid (hence twenty-five numbers). Lines were drawn between the points, but the sequence was not established afresh at random, but reused from VIII/3.[3] As the chart showed, the route began and ended at the same point, so that the sequence of three numbers (21, 5, 5) ended with the first repeated. Lines were added on the outside of the area described by such routes (being added to the left of the direction). The artist told the Tate that the colour sequence was 1, 2, blue, 1, 2 red, 1, 2, 3 blue etc.;[4] this was determined by reading down the columns on the chart, where they are marked off with dots. Both the primary colours and the lozenge format echo the work of Mondrian and van Doesburg.

The inscription, ‘second version’, indicates that the main drawing revised an earlier one, and it is notable that it bears the same date as VIII/1 and VIII/3.[5] The cut away corner remains unexplained, but, in conjunction with the additional diagram of circles, the effect is of a sheet of working drawings. Of this secondary diagram, Lane has commented: ‘Each circle is divided into eight segments. The points are numbered where they cut the circumference from one circle to the next in a continuous undulation’.[6] The point at which they touch was numbered for each circle, giving twenty-four points. The pairing was again determined by a previously used selection, that on VI/9b,[7] as Lane indicated.

Matthew Gale
October 1997

[1] Andrew Forge and Hilary Lane, Chance and Order: Drawings by Kenneth Martin, London 1973.

[2] Reproduced ibid. pp.19, 36.
[3] Reproduced ibid. p.55.
[4] Kenneth Martin, letter, 14 May 1974, Tate catalogue files.

[5] Forge and Lane 1973, reproduced pp.53, 55.
[6] Ibid., p.56.
[7] Reproduced ibid., p.43.

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