Kettle’s Yard has brought together the largest group of paintings by the American painter Agnes Martin to be seen in the UK for more than 15 years.

In collaboration with Artist Rooms, 21 museums and galleries across the UK in 2010 will be showing 25 Artist Rooms exhibitions and displays from the collection created by the curator and collector, Anthony d’Offay, and acquired by the nation in February 2008.

Artist Rooms on Tour with The Art Fund has been devised to enable this collection held by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland, to reach and inspire new audiences across the country, particularly young people.

The exhibition, which runs from May 15 until July 11, will include the recently created Artist Room of works by Agnes Martin, together with additional loans from a private collection. Bringing together a total of 11 paintings and a suite of 30 prints, the exhibition focuses on Martin’s late practice, which embraced an increasingly tactile handling of paint and broader range of hues. During this period, the artist also used evocative titles to convey emotional states of euphoria and memories of past happiness. Earlier grid-based works made during the 1970s offer a counterpoint to these late works, composed of horizontal bands of luminous colour that marry the harmony of ordered geometry with the imperfections and irregularity of hand-drawn pencil lines. The artist regarded this inherent inconsistency as a metaphor for the human condition. She has written: “I hope I have made it clear that the work is about perfection as we are aware of it in our minds but that the paintings are very far from being perfect – completely removed in fact – even as we ourselves are.”

Martin’s pure, abstract style was often aligned with Minimalism, although the artist refuted this, maintaining that her concern was with the inner, emotional world – which explains her kinship with Abstract Expressionism. For most of her career, Martin worked in isolation, inspired by her reading of ancient Chinese Tao philosophy and by the bare desert landscapes in New Mexico where she resided from 1967 until her death in 2004.

“I want people, when they look at my paintings, to have the same feelings they experience when they look at landscape,” Martin once said.

Kettle’s Yard, with its intimate galleries filled with natural light, will be a unique place to experience at first hand the ethereal beauty of Martin’s paintings.

The exhibition will also include rarely seen film interviews with the artist, and a photographic portrait of the artist by Diane Arbus. In conjunction with the exhibition, Kettle’s Yard is organising two events at Lucy Cavendish College: a symposium on Agnes Martin (June 14) that brings together leading scholars Jonathan Katz, Briony Fer and others to present new research and lead discussion about Martin’s work. There will also be a special screening of Martin’s 1976 film “Gabriel” (June 13) in which the artist chronicles a boy’s relationship to nature and abstraction on a mountain odyssey. This film was first shown in Edinburgh in 1999. This will be its second UK screening.

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