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Friday, February 21, 2014

Derek Jarman: "He was shy and proper, radical and subversive"

The artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman died on 19 February 1994. To mark 20 years since his death from an AIDS-related illness, a series of events and screenings are happening throughout the year, including two recently opened exhibitions in London.

Jubilee looked at London through the lens of alternative culture during the year of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee
Derek Jarman: Pandemonium continues at the Cultural Institute at King’s, Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, London until 9 March
Almost Bliss: Notes on Derek Jarman’s Blue is at Chelsea Space, 16 John Islip Street, London until 15 March.
For information on other Derek Jarman events, screenings and exhibitions throughout 2014 visit

Some of Jarman's earliest work was as set designer - here for Ken Russell's 1971 film The Devils
Text below are extracts from the feature in this months Artists Newletter - read the whole piece here

For Derek Jarman: Pandemonium, curator Mark Turner takes Jarman's brief spell in the 1960s as a Humanities undergraduate at King's as a starting point to trace a history of the artist's life in London. (Jarman had an agreement with his father that if he first completed an academic degree, he would be supported through painting studies at the Slade.) In a richly layered journey through the basement spaces of the college's Inigo Rooms, we travel from his student days to warehouse living at Butler's Wharf in the 1970s, to his use of Docklands' derelict Millennium Mills in The Last of England (1987).
As portable MP3 players play music that moves from haunting electronic compositions to sacred Medieval chants, Jarman's Super 8 footage is edgy, intimate, playful. Quick cuts, double exposures and experiments with time-lapse and single frame shooting create a powerful, personal cinema that set a precedent for contemporary filmmakers such as Luke Fowler, winner of the inaugural Jarman award in 2008.

Sebastien (1976) - Jarman's first film
If Pandemonium succeeds in conjuring Jarman's presence and vitality, it is by contrast his absence that is most keenly felt in Chelsea Space's Almost Bliss: Notes on Derek Jarman's Blue. Centring on the artist's A Blueprint for Bliss notebooks, made in 1989 as he developed what was initially conceived as a monochrome film dedicated to Yves Klein, curator Donald Smith has assembled a collection of objects, notes and artworks relating to Jarman's final feature, creating an environment for reverie and reflection.
With the gallery's central ramp and floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows tinted IKB, the visitor is softly enveloped in the blue of Jarman's thoughts – and, tragically, his fading vision. An alternating soundtrack of waves on the shingle beach at Dungeness – where Jarman would tend the garden of his timber cottage – and Klein's single-note Monotone Symphony, is at once soothing and desperately poignant.
"I wanted to create a space to come and think, for contemplation," explains Smith, for whom Jarman was a friend of a friend and a mentor. "I knew there'd be a lot of 'noise' in other venues, and 'celebration'. But for me it's not really a celebration, my mate's partner died. I wanted to do something different, and also to draw attention to the aspect of his practice that was about formalism, structure and clarity."

Last of England 1986 - essential
Derek Jarman 1942 -1994 RIP

Caravaggio (1986) - Renaissance Italy recreated in a Warehouse in London's Docklands

In his last years Jarman lived in a cottage on the same shore as the Dungeness power station - the garden he created there was his last work

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