This week marks 20 years since the death of Derek Jarman, the filmmaker, theatre designer, writer and painter. Our Photo Friday is taken from Today and Tomorrow (1991), a day book produced by Derek Jarman, with images mainly from his Luminous Darkness exhibition. The image shown is of The Mistake, produced in December 1987 using mixed media, shown alongside a page in the day book.
Born in 1942 in Northwood, Derek Jarman studied at King’s College London, and exhibited his paintings widely before establishing an international reputation as a film director in the 1970s. Derek Jarman continued painting, making his first ‘black’ painting in 1980, by scratching through a layer of black in order to selectively uncover a ground of gold leaf. Jarman’s 1984 retrospective (London, ICA) demonstrated his increasingly political stance, characterised by an anti-Thatcherism and a preoccupation with social disintegration, which culminated in his 1987 film The Last of England. He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1986, primarily for his achievements as a filmmaker, and in particular for Caravaggio. The relationship between film and painting continued to be central to Jarman’s work; the non-narrative flow of imagery and improvisatory collage-like quality of his films was more suggestive of a painterly than a cinematic sensibility.
Jarman was diagnosed as HIV-positive in December 1986. His last set of paintings were highly coloured works in which a word or slogan was daubed across an effusively scraped and splattered ground, again dealing with aspects of his illness. The violence and anger of these paintings contrasts with the serenity of his final film, Blue (1994). Made when he was virtually blind, it consisted solely of a monochrome blue screen, with a soundtrack of voice and music.
Derek Jarman was an outspoken advocate for gay rights and the rights and dignity of PWAs (Persons with AIDs), so it seems fitting to celebrate his life and remember him in February, LGBT History Month.
Access to this item is by arrangement with the LJMU Archivist. We also hold a number of exhibition catalogues, books and DVDs in the library related to Derek Jarman.