Sunday, 15 January 2012


Picture of the triptych The Last Judgment installed in Tate Britain

Just went to see the John Martin show at the Tate. I'd been waiting a while to see it and I was lucky I didn't miss it as it closed today.

I have mixed feelings about the exhibition. I love John Martin's work, I always have but the show really aggravated me.

First of all before I even got into the show I was reading the little hand out books they give you while I waited in the queue. Seven of the pages (and there were only 10) just gave examples of modern day productions which were inspired by Martin's work. I mean yes its interesting to hear about how people have taken inspiration but usually that kind of information takes a backseat to stuff about the artist and their life. Already before even seeing the displays I felt like I was being patronized. The whole exhibition seemed designed to make people more interested in art they might not necessarily appreciate but in completely the wrong manner.

Personally I feel that it is essential that any exhibition attempt to promote itself to a wider range of people and not just to people who are already interested in art. However this was just embarrassing.
Getting people interested in art shouldn't be a case of changing art to please people.

The cherry on the processed culture cake was the projection show of Martin's triptych The Last Judgment , which is considered his most sublime and moving work.
It was, quite frankly, pathetic and so condescending I can hardly even bring myself to think about it again.
It sounds hypocritical of me, as I'm currently experimenting with projections over traditional painting, but this was crass and infantile.
Visitors sat in a darkened gallery space while lights and even worse moving animations are projected over the paintings
and voices with both English and American accents narrate the paintings for you, in case you know you can't actually look at what is in front of you quietly. It was very crowded I sat on the floor so it felt even more like story time in junior school.

I remember the first time I saw final painting in his triptych The Last Judgment. It was always in Tate Britain displayed in their permanent collection. I remember seeing it and being transfixed and I sat down to make charcoal studies of it and it wasn't receiving half the amount of attention I saw it get yesterday.

I just despair for a world where not only have people lost the patience to paint such sublime images, but have lost the patience to even look at them without a big animated light show and a voice to guide you through so you won't have to spend all that effort thinking for yourself about anything.

It wasn't all bad though. There were so many beautiful mezzotint prints on display that were just breathtaking. Another gem was a tiny illustration of iguana-don in a prehistoric landscape that sat on a page of an archaic geology manual.
I suppose all in all I'm glad that John Martin is getting more appreciation than he used to and that people will recognize his existence its just that its a hollow ghost of an applause unfortunately.

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