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Kenneth Martin, Screw mobile, 1969

“[a mobile] can enliven our consciousness of environment, moving as it does in our space and casting its moving shadow”

Kenneth Martin, 1968

About this work

Kenneth Martin often used mathematical rules such as mathematical progression, sequences and rules of proportion to create his constructions. For Screw Mobile, the distance between the bars is determined by the Fibonacci sequence; a pattern found in nature, where each number is the sum of the previous two. The design may also have been influenced by the double helix structure of DNA. Martin liked to use commercial and readily available materials and his interest in modern industrial materials suggests an optimism for the future, echoing the reconstruction phase of post war Britain.

Martin described the working process for his mobiles in 3 phases; designing and making; decision making in regard to the final outcome for the piece; and the progress of the piece growing autonomously. For Martin the kinetic movement and uncontrolled chance movements of the mobiles was integral to the act of making and the character of the work.

Why is it at Kettle’s Yard?

Jim Ede met Martin whilst he was living in London, Martin was a visitor to Ede’s ‘open house’ in Elm Row, Hampstead in the 1930’s. Ede purchased Screw Mobile in 1976. The correspondence between Ede and Martin focuses on the importance of shadow and reflection in this mobile. At Kettle’s Yard the work is displayed next to a window in the extension – hung from wire it spins and turns according to the movement of air in the room. The unpredictable movement and play of light on the surface of the mobile casts shadows on the walls and neighbouring artworks adding an element of chance to the piece.

About the artist

Martin was born in Sheffield. He studied at the Sheffield School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London. In 1930 he married the artist Mary Balmford: they rarely worked in collaboration but occasionally exhibited together. Martin is often associated with post war British abstract art, a new wave of artists who rejected imitative art in favour of geometrical relief sculptures, mobiles and constructions and included Adrian Heath and Victor Pasmore. Martin’s work was exhibited at the Tate Gallery (1975), the Yale Centre for British Art (1979), the Serpentine (1985) and Kettle’s Yard (1999). In 1971 he was awarded an OBE.