Tate Etc

John Martin's The Great Day of His Wrath Tate Etc. at Tate Britain / Artists' Perspectives

In celebration of the reopening of Tate Britain, Tate Etc. invited a selection of artists from around the world to choose a favoured work from a fellow artist currently on display. Here, Japanese mixed-media artist Takesada Matsutani reflects on John Martin’s The Great Day of His Wrath 1851–3

John Martin
The Great Day of His Wrath (1851–3)

Living through an apocalyptic shift in the earth’s plates deep down under that can toss the ground we stand on like a penny is unforgettably terrifying. Everything goes down around you – ears, mouth and nose fill with familiar walls’ dust. You want to run… you only fall stupidly.

Eventually, routines are picked up. Mine continued as an artist. In Kobe, I now see little of the 1995 earthquake destruction, but John Martin’s The Great Day of His Wrath sent a shock through me, opening memory like his gap between earth and wave. Here is the crashing, wonderful strength of painting. I began studying the work, the way he rendered the emotional, biblical illusion so powerfully as to remind me of a past event, and my pain was overridden by his force to master the concept with his brushes, with his hands. It’s the hands that do it. For me as an artist, it is a confirmation of our unique ability to transfer thought to our hands as our finest tool. Here are rooms full of work to confirm this. We have many tools at our disposal, yet, for me, my hands remain my best means to express an inner world.

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