The John Martin exhibition at Tate Britain, aptly named "Apocalypse", is ending on January 15th... I urge you to go, because it is a real feast for the eyes; some of those paintings look staggeringly beautiful in all their apocalyptic glory. These are works on a scale never encountered anywhere else.
I am someone who is extremely sensitive to dark imagery; I was entirely, completely seduced by the sumptuous, chaotic, pulsating, majestic red and black miasma portrayed in John Martin's masterpieces.
An all-time favourite of mine, The Great Day of His Wrath - part of The Last Judgement triptych - makes you gasp with awe as you feel sucked into the cataclysmic scene in front of you. You can almost feel the heat on your face and you can smell the sulphuric, acrid smell of Hell as you stand in front of it...
Pandemonium is yet another scene of burning devastation and hellish inferno that will leave you speechless.
John Martin's work has been a source of inspiration for countless artists: films, science fiction, manga comics, video games, musicians, visual artists... His highly theatrical, cinematic work is truly unique.
Going through the different rooms, you get a sense of an incredibly talented craftsman, who carried on with his vision regardless of all the criticism and bitchiness of the critics of the time.
He also seem to have been quite unable to really cash-in and revel in his own fame and the recognition of his talent: he was deemed too populist and commercial, and it is mainly other people who have gained from his popularity.
But behind the fantasy, the fantastical, the mythological and the grandiose, one can sense the very human traits of fanaticism, hope, fear, terror, blind faith, cruelty, sadism, an equal lust for beauty and an irrepressible love of destruction...
John Martin's images reflect the sumptuousness of nature, the ambition and the arrogance of Man, all this in exquisitely detailed Black and White prints or larger than life fantastical landscape scenery ...
A truly exceptional experience...
Then it was up to Mayfair and the Curzon Mayfair, a fabulous little cinema - I have only been to the Curzon Soho, a glitzier affair entirely - to see Terence Davies' wonderfully understated The Deep Blue Sea (from the Terence Rattigan play). 1950s Britain, with all its moral stuffiness and greyness, is lovingly reconstructed, but it is the incredibly nuanced acting - Rachel Weisz, whom I was aware of but had never seen in a movie before and is quite simply splendid - the scarce dialogue and the lines that often ring so true that make The Deep Blue Sea such a gripping movie. I am never one for a romantic story, but this goes beyond the romance and questions what it is that make us be and stay alive, take the decisions we take, make us who we are as individuals...
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