As he gets a major Dublin exhibition, who was Derek Jarman?

As he gets a major Dublin exhibition, who was Derek Jarman?

On the 25th anniversary of his death, artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman is being honoured with a major exhibition of his work at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

The exhibition is called PROTEST!, which is particularly appropriate considering the confrontational nature of his work and the fact he dedicated his life to activism.

IMMA says: “While addressing Jarman’s important contribution to film, this exhibition will focus on his wider practice as a painter, writer, set-designer, gardener and political activist. This is the first time that these diverse strands of his practice will be brought together in over 20 years.”

It runs from November 15 until February 23 and is free to visit. In light of such an important retrospective, here’s everything you need to know about Jarman…

His background

Born in England in 1942, Jarman went on to study at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art alongside David Hockney. Although originally a painter, Jarman soon explored other mediums of art from set design to filmmaking.

Jarman died in 1994 aged 52 from Aids-related complications, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of his death.

His work

Jarman’s art is confrontational and often angry – some of his later paintings have words like, ‘Blood’, ‘Sick’ and ‘Panic’ scrawled across them, as a commentary on the media’s perception of Aids.

His films have been described as avant-garde and controversial, and they often have autobiographical elements – Jarman wasn’t afraid of exploring his own life onscreen.

If you want to watch some of Jarman’s work, the best place to start is the film Caravaggio. This is seen as one of Jarman’s more accessible films (but still in his signature style), telling the story of painter Michelangelo Caravaggio and starring Tilda Swinton in her first ever role. The Conversation refers to Jarman’s biopic films Caravaggio, Edward II and Wittgenstein as “a ‘queering’ of history, to emphasise the sexuality of their respective central figures in order to carve a space for gay visibility within the largely heterosexual (not to mention, white and male) academy.”

Jarman also made a name for himself directing music videos for bands like the Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths and The Sex Pistols, at a time when the art of music videos was still in its infancy.

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Today is the day! We hope to see you all here from 6 to 8pm for the Opening of 'Derek Jarman, PROTEST!', a major retrospective of the work of acclaimed British artist and filmmaker, marking 25 years since his death. This is the first time that the diverse strands of his practice will be brought together in over 20 years. Derek Jarman, PROTEST! is organized by IMMA in partnership with @mcrartgallery (2 Apr – 31 Aug 2020), and is accompanied by additional projects at @derryvoid, Derry and @johnhansardgallery, Southampton. Moving image works from across Jarman’s career will be shown throughout the exhibition. Jarman’s achievement in film will be presented in association with the @irishfilminstitute (IFI) who will screen a selection of his feature films in their original format in December. Image: Derek Jarman, Morphine, 1992, oil on photocopy on canvas, 251.5 x 179cm, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre. #IMMADerekJarman #DerekJarmanPROTEST #DerekJarman #IMMAIreland

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He was a true Renaissance man: Not only was Jarman a prolific filmmaker and artist, but he was also known for his gardening, writing and set design work.

His activism

There’s a reason the IMMA exhibition is called PROTEST!. Much of Jarman’s work was hyper-political, and he was a vocal activist for gay rights throughout his life. He was constantly challenging – through his work and activism – society’s opinions of homosexuality and what it was like to be gay. He was a prominent figure in the queer rights group OutRage! and was once arrested protesting the recent anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the early 1990s (according to his friend and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell).

Jarman was diagnosed with Aids in the 1980s, and spoke honestly and openly about the disease – raising huge amounts of awareness and money for the cause, at a time when it was misunderstood and often demonised by the media. Tatchell spoke at the unveiling of a blue plaque dedicated to Jarman earlier this year, referring to him as the first UK public figure to come out as HIV positive and adding: “He was a trailblazer in every aspect of his life and work—a fierce critic of everything conventional and orthodox. A true innovator.”

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