Kenneth Martin (1905-1984)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Kenneth Martin (1905-1984)

Chance, Order, Change 26 (History Painting)

Kenneth Martin (1905-1984)
Chance, Order, Change 26 (History Painting)
signed, titled and dated 'CHANCE ORDER CHANGE 26 HISTORY PAINTING 1983 Kenneth Martin' (on the canvas overlap)
oil on canvas
36 x 36in. (91.4 x 91.4cm.)
Painted in 1983
Annely Juda Fine Art, London.
Acquired from the above by Jeremy Lancaster, 9 October 1987.
London, Waddington Galleries, Kenneth Martin, 1984, no. 12.
London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Serpentine Gallery, Kenneth Martin: The Late Paintings, 1985 (illustrated in colour on the cover).
London, Annely Juda Fine Art, Kenneth & Mary Martin, 1987, p. 127, no. 89 (illustrated in colour, p. 108).
Birmingham, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Chance, Order, Change: Abstract Paintings 1939-89, 2016.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay


Seeing this superb late painting being completed by Kenneth over a period of about 6 months was revelatory. The thick black and white paint was slowly built up by small brush strokes: edifices of black against white bands in the spaces between gradually produced a dynamic universe of lines and layers that pulled one in to their world. When asked about the thick paint application Kenneth would say, ‘I'm putting on the white, making the white whiter’ by which he meant that the myriad edges and valleys of the fine white strokes would reflect and deflect more light from different angles. This gave the white paint a wonderful luminosity.

‘History Painting’ refers to the fact that the order of construction of the elements, their placement and their dynamics are ‘recoverable’ through time: the processes of the making of the painting can be discerned by careful investigation, guided by the title of the work and comparing this painting with others. Discovering where lines or bands cross the canvas in layers reveals that where they meet another band they bend – change direction - to the right, following a path to the next marker clockwise at the perimeter. At the same time the ‘band’ collects another parallel band on its right. If that double band meets another band (or even a double or triple band) it again faces the next marker clockwise on the perimeter, collecting yet another band. And so on: layer under layer, moving back in space, all the while ‘curving’ to the right eventually increasing the maximum possible number of parallel bands to eleven.

The measured physicality and slow, contemplative build-up of black lines with white spaces between take on a tangible presence rarely encountered in modern geometric painting. The first Chance and Order painting was completed in 1970, following a series of drawings begun the previous year. The series culminates in Chance, Order, Change 26 (History Painting), 1983, which was chosen for the cover of his Serpentine Gallery exhibition in 1985.

More from The Jeremy Lancaster Collection

View All
View All