This major retrospective of artist, filmmaker, writer, set designer and activist Derek Jarman’s practice features bodies of work never before seen in public.
Born in 1942, Derek Jarman became one of the most influential figures in 20th-century British culture. The exhibition marks 27 years since his death, and 20 years since the last significant exhibition to bring together the diverse strands of his practice, and features additional content sourced during lockdown, highlighting Jarman’s major bodies of work between the 1960s and 1990s. It also focuses on Jarman’s work with actors, designers and musicians including the Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths, Tilda Swinton and Sean Bean.
From helping to define a new era in British painting, to using his practice as a platform for political protest, this exhibition spans this multidisciplinary output, from films, diaries and sketchbooks to slogan paintings and assemblages. Jarman’s early career was centred on painting, his self-portraits and figure studies drawing on a variety of influences. Part of a group of young artists including David Hockney who helped to change the direction of British art, Jarman went on to design sets for opera and ballet, then to design for film. He began making his own films in the 1970s, producing Super-8s and scripts, before a HIV-positive diagnosis in 1986 led to a transformation in his practice.
One of the few public figures to admit to living with the disease, Jarman began making a series of ‘Slogan Paintings’ in the early 1990s, featuring phrases from discriminatory government policy, the tabloids’ fear mongering coverage, and public hysteria during the AIDS crisis. These monumental works are on display at the gallery, alongside rarely-seen landscape paintings and assemblages created after Jarman’s move to Prospect Cottage in Kent, where he lived until his death.