By Andrew Mead
Kenneth Martin and Mary Martin: Constructed Works.
At Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London NW3, until 16 September
At the entrance to the first-floor galleries at Camden Arts Centre (CAC), remodelled by Tony Fretton in 2004, is a maquette by Mary Martin. It’s for an ‘environment’ in the ‘This is Tomorrow’ exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 1956 – a show featuring several artist/architect collaborations (Alison and Peter Smithson with sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, for instance) that is now most remembered for launching Pop Art in the UK.
But the exhibit that Martin created with her husband Kenneth and architect John Weeks was more austere and abstract. The Martins belonged to a group of artists who called themselves Constructionists; using everyday materials such as hardboard, stainless steel and perspex, their works sought to shape and activate space. Seen today in CAC’s deft installation, they still look fresh, engaging with architecture now as much as when they were made.
Mary Martin went on to realise a number of large-scale pieces for buildings, including Llewellyn Davies Weeks’ Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast, and RMJM’s Stirling University. They share the language of her smaller domestic works, in which honeycomb-like clusters of angled stainless-steel planes come alive with the light, or rhythmic groups of painted wooden blocks and planes form shallow orthogonal reliefs.