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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.

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. More than 80 early works have been identified from the period 1958 to 1970, and some 30 of these are previously unknown and have been catalogued, conserved and documented for this exhibition.

Sometimes called ‘The Andy Warhol of London’, as early as 1967 Jarman was hired to produce design sets such as Jazz Calendar by Frederick Ashton at the Royal Ballet; and in 1971 the set for Ken Russell’s The Devils. The exhibition includes many original designs by Jarman; photographs of the realised sets and a group of seven costumes designed by Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell. While collaboration was at the heart of Jarman’s practice it also highlights his status as an incubator of young talent. Figures such as Tilda Swinton, Toyah Wilcox, Joanna Hogg, Sean Bean and John Maybury had their first opportunities under Jarman’s direction.

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. 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. Following the release of the film Caravaggio in 1986, he was nominated for the Turner Prize that year.

Jarman made music videos at a time when the medium was in its infancy. His collaborators included figures like The Smiths, Marianne Faithful, Bob Geldof, Marc Almond, Pet Shop Boys and Suede.

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).

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 Irish Film Institute (IFI) who will screen a selection of his feature films in their original format in December.

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.

Visitors are advised that this exhibition contains adult themes that may not be suitable for all audiences. Please ask a member of the Visitor Engagement Team for more information.

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.
View Artist

Feature Film Screening Times at IMMA

Derek Jarman’s feature filmography is presented chronologically in the screening room twice weekly. This screening cycle excludes Blue (1993) and The Garden (1990), which are presented elsewhere in the exhibition.

With thanks to the British Film Institute and Euro London Films.

Sebastiane (1976) – 11:45am – 1:10pm
Jubilee (1977) – 1:20pm – 3:10pm
The Tempest (1979) – 3:20pm – 5:00pm


The Angelic Conversation (1985) – 11:45am – 1:00pm
Caravaggio (1986) – 1:15pm – 2:45pm
The Last of England (1988) – 3:00pm – 4:30pm


War Requiem (1989) – 11:45am – 1:20pm
Edward II (1991) – 1:30pm – 3pm
Wittgenstein (1993) – 3:10pm – 4:15pm


Sebastiane (1976) – 11:45am – 1:10pm
Jubilee (1977) – 1:20pm – 3:10pm
The Tempest (1979) – 3:20pm – 5:00pm


The Angelic Conversation (1985) – 11:45am – 1:00pm
Caravaggio (1986) – 1:15pm – 2:45pm
The Last of England (1988) – 3:00pm – 4:30pm


War Requiem (1989) – 12:15pm – 1:50pm
Edward II (1991) – 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Wittgenstein (1993) – 3:40pm – 4:45pm


IFI Film Season


Tuesday 3rd: Sebastiane (18.30)
Thursday 5th: Jubilee (18.30)
Saturday 7th: The Angelic Conversation (13.30)
Sunday 8th: Caravaggio (13.30)
Tuesday 10th: The Last of England (18.30)
Thursday 12th: The Garden (18.30)
Saturday 14th: Edward II (13.30)
Sunday 15th: Wittgenstein (13.30)


Multi-film pass available directly from the IFI Box Office: 5 films for €50.

One of the most significant figures in 20th century British culture, Derek Jarman was a provocative, multi-hyphenate maverick who produced prodigious quantities of work, in a variety of mediums, throughout the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. An artist of many dimensions, Jarman was a poet, a painter, a scriptwriter, a director, a cinematographer, a set designer, and an author of autobiographical journals. This retrospective season of eight of his most significant films is presented in parallel to the PROTEST! exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (15th November 2019 – 23rd February 2020), which focuses on Jarman’s wider practices as a painter, writer, gardener and political activist.

Jarman designed the expressive sets for Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) before directing his feature debut, Sebastiane (1976), a distinctly queer interpretation of the martyrdom of St Sebastian. A fiercely outspoken advocate for gay rights, Jarman’s work is provocative and defiantly anti-establishment; his scathing attacks on British politics, and oppressive religious conservativism, coupled with his radical use of aesthetic forms, evident in excoriating works such as Jubilee (1978) and The Last of England (1987), saw him cast as the enfant terrible of the contemporary art world, and made him a heroic figure for marginalised communities.

A highly visible public figure, Jarman made no secret of his diagnosis with the HIV virus in 1986, at the time an untreatable disease, branded a plague by the media. This coincided with his move to Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, Kent, overshadowed by a nuclear power station. He continued to work as his health declined, creating an internationally recognised garden, and made some of the most formally daring films of his career.


Tuesday 3rd (18.30)

Film info: 86 mins, UK, 1976, Digital, Subtitled

Having made numerous experimental short works on Super 8mm, Jarman made his narrative feature debut, co-directed with Paul Humfress, with this controversial, proudly homo-erotic, Latin-language treatment of the life and martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, a member of Emperor Diocletian’s Praetorian Guard in the 4th century who was persecuted on account of his Christianity, and whose image was appropriated in gay iconography from the 19th century. Jarman evocatively captures the scorching heat of the Sardinian locations, and the evident effect it has on his cast, while Brian Eno’s typically atmospheric score complements the director’s superb framing, pacing and ethereal slow-motion sequences.

This screening will be introduced by Sean Kissane, Curator of Exhibitions at IMMA, and curator of Derek Jarman: PROTEST!


Thursday 5th (18.30)

Film info: 106 mins, UK, 1978, Digital.

Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported into the future by her mysterious occult aide Dr John Dee (Richard O’Brien), and the pair finds themselves in the anarchic Britain of the 1970s, where crime and disorder plague the streets, and Queen Elizabeth II has been killed in an arbitrary mugging. As they move through the social and physical decay of London, Elizabeth and Dee observe the activities of a group of young punks memorably played by pop culture icons of the era, including Toyah Willcox, Adam Ant and Vivienne Westwood. Bravely anti-establishment in its haunting vision of a social wasteland, Jubilee rails against the monarchy, moral corruption and big-business obsessed Britain.

The Angelic Conversation

Saturday 7th (13.30)

Film info: 77 mins, UK, 1985, Digital.

Jarman continued to work with the Super 8mm format throughout his career, creating short films which were later edited together and blown up for theatrical presentation. This was his most prominent mode of artistic practice in the early 1980s, of which The Angelic Conversation is representative. The film, which Jarman himself described as, ‘a dream world, a world of magic and ritual’, takes the form of a poetic montage of imagery depicting gay male desire, accompanied by a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, beautifully intoned by Judi Dench, with an evocative soundtrack composed and performed by English experimental group Coil.


Sunday 8th (13.30)

Film info: 93 mins, UK, 1986, Digital.

With the advent of new funding streams from Channel 4, Jarman was able to realise his long-gestating, fictionalised biopic of the Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio. While being as imaginative and experimental as expected, the film was also his most beautiful and accessible work, and proved to be a modest commercial success. Sean Bean and Tilda Swinton, in the first of her many roles for Jarman, deliver fine performances as the model and partner caught up in a complex love triangle with the painter (Nigel Terry). The film brings together Jarman’s quintessential themes: the plight of the artist, homosexual love and the hypocrisy of religious authority.

The Last of England

Tuesday 10th (18.30)

Film info: 92 mins, UK, 1987, Digital.

Jarman’s angriest film, a striking collage of Super 8mm, home video footage, and new material, is a distressing, nightmarish vision of a country which had, under Thatcher’s rule in the 1980s, as the director saw it, become a homophobic, repressive state. The film is an assault of images, some ugly, some perversely beautiful. In the most unforgettable sequence, Tilda Swinton’s Bride tears off her wedding dress in a fit of despair and grief, before leaving the country for a better world, in emulation of the emigrating couple depicted in Ford Madox Brown’s famous painting of the same name, which inspired Jarman to make the film.

The Garden 

Thursday 12th (18.30)

Film info: 92 mins, UK-Germany-Japan, 1990, Digital.

Diagnosed with the HIV virus in the mid-1980s, Jarman’s health was in decline when he came to create this contemplative, self-reflexive reverie on sexual repression, religious iconography and mortality. Filmed on delicate Super 8mm in the environs of Prospect Cottage, the director’s sparsely furnished home, close to a nuclear power plant on the barren, windswept Dungeness coastline, The Garden offers insight into Jarman’s interior world, shifting from the personal to the political in its consideration of his recurring themes, utilising a cast of religious figures including Jesus, Judas and the Madonna, played by frequent muse Tilda Swinton.

Edward II

Saturday 14th (13.30)

Film info: 91 mins, UK-Japan, 1991, Digital.

In adapting Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan drama for the screen, Jarman forefronts the play’s homosexual themes, adding relevance through pointed anachronisms in the staging, mixing contemporary and medieval props and clothing. Jarman takes the plot, which revolves around the King’s (Steven Waddington) infatuation with Piers Gaveston (Andrew Tiernan), which proved to be his downfall, and renders it thrillingly modern – at one point Edward’s army are depicted as the contemporary gay rights activist group, OutRage! Edward II is often cited a key film of the New Queer Cinema cycle of the early 1990s, alongside My own Private Idaho, Young Soul Rebels and Poison.


Sunday 15th (13.30)

Film info: 72 mins, UK-Japan, 1993, Digital.

Derek Jarman’s penultimate film was a theatrical, highly imaginative biopic of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, based on a screenplay by the radical literary theorist Terry Eagleton. Commissioned by Channel 4, and working from a meagre budget as he so often had to, Wittgenstein is full of arresting visuals and bold performances from Tilda Swinton, Michael Gough and Karl Johnson, who brilliantly captures the troubled, homosexual philosopher in all of his torment and drama. The film was to be Jarman’s final narrative feature before complications with AIDS rendered him partially blind, though he made the extraordinary Blue before his death in 1994.

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.

Take IMMA home

Book Derek Jarman, PROTEST! Book €35 The IMMA Shop are delighted to sell this beautiful new monograph on Derek Jarman, co-published by IMMA and Thames and Hudson on the occasion of the major retrospective of his work PROTEST!. This book offers a definitive overview of Derek Jarman's life and work, covering all aspects of his oeuvre, from his feature films and Super 8s, his painting, design for theatre, memoir, poetry, gardening and political activism. Add to Cart


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