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IMMA is delighted to present PROTEST! a major retrospective of the work of one of the most influential figures in 20th century British culture, Derek Jarman. 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, since the important exhibition of his work at the Barbican, London, in 1996.

PROTEST! captures Jarman’s engagement with both art and society, as well as his contemporary concerns with political protest and personal freedoms arising from the AIDS crisis. Major bodies of work, from the 1960s to the 1990s, have been brought together; many of which have never been seen in public before.

Derek Jarman studied at the Slade School of Art, London in the early 60s, and was part of a group of young painters, including Patrick Procter and David Hockney, who embodied a changing mood in British art. Alongside painting he began to produce set designs for opera and ballet which fused his personal style of painting with the scale and three-dimensionality needed for the theatre. This later evolved into design for film alongside the Director Ken Russell, which led directly into his first foray in film-making in the early 70s when he began to make Super-8s and write film scripts. Archival material including sketchbooks, photographs, scripts and ephemera will show Jarman’s development as a set-designer for film such as The Devils (Dir. Ken Russell, 1971), opera Don Giovanni (Sadler’s Wells, 1968) and ballet Jazz Calendar (Royal Ballet,1968).

In 1976 he produced his first full length feature film Sebastiane, a queer telling of the story of the martyrdom of St Sebastian. Against the backdrop of Thatcherism and a socially conservative Britain, Jarman’s work made queer lives and history visible; a provocation to the dominant hierarchies.

Caravaggio’s life and art were a source of inspiration for their fusion of passion, beauty and violence. Over a period of more than ten years Jarman made paintings using techniques borrowed from the Renaissance master. Making a feature film on Caravaggio’s life became an obsession. This research led to the creation of volumes of sketchbooks, storyboards, and paintings which will be included in this retrospective. Following the release of the film Caravaggio in 1986, he received recognition by the Tate Gallery when he was included as a nominee for the Turner Prize that year.

At the end of 1986 Jarman was diagnosed as HIV-positive. AIDS was then a fatal, non-treatable disease which the tabloid press described as a plague. This diagnosis transformed Jarman’s practice and led to a new kind of activism as he worked to raise awareness of AIDS. This is expressed in his paintings such as Queer (1992), from his expansive series of ‘Slogan Paintings’. These monumental works, from the early 1990s, incorporating phrases related to government policy, tabloid hysteria and public fear of the AIDS crisis remain powerful comments on the socio-political climate of the time.

Jarman’s diagnosis coincided with a move to Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, Kent, which is over shadowed by the Dungeness nuclear power station. Here he created a unique and highly-regarded garden, the site of his film The Garden (1990) and book Derek Jarman’s Garden (1995).

PROTEST!, published by Thames and Hudson 2020
IMMA and Thames and Hudson will publish a major new monograph on Derek Jarman to accompany the retrospective, covering Jarman’s artistic development as well as reflecting on his life and legacy. The book will feature contributions from Seán Kissane, Curator, IMMA; Sir Norman Rosenthal; Jonny Bruce, gardener and journalist; Professor Robert Mills, University of London; Jon Savage, music critic and writer; Michael Charlesworth, an authority on landscape and the history of gardens and author of the book ‘Derek Jarman, Critical Lives’, and writers Olivia Laing and Philip Hoare.

Derek Jarman, PROTEST! is organized by IMMA in partnership with Manchester Art Gallery (2 Apr – 31 Aug 2020), and is accompanied by additional projects at VOID, Derry and John Hansard Gallery, Southampton.


About the Artist

Derek Jarman 1942–1994

One of the most influential figures in twentieth-century British culture, Derek Jarman was an English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener, political activist and author. He was educated at the University of London and at the Slade School of Art.
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PROTEST! monograph on Derek Jarman

PROTEST! monograph on Derek Jarman, published by Thames and Hudson, 2020

IMMA and Thames and Hudson will publish a major new monograph on Derek Jarman to accompany the retrospective, covering Jarman’s artistic development as well as reflecting on his life and legacy. The book will feature contributions from Seán Kissane, Curator, IMMA; Sir Norman Rosenthal; Jonny Bruce, gardener and journalist; Professor Robert Mills, University of London; Jon Savage, music critic and writer; Michael Charlesworth, an authority on landscape and the history of gardens and author of the book ‘Derek Jarman, Critical Lives’, and writers Olivia Laing and Philip Hoare.


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