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Derek Jarman -
Artist info
Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman (January 31, 1942 – February 19, 1994) was an English film director, stage designer, artist, and writer. Jarman was born Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman in Northwood, Middlesex, boarded at Canford School in Dorset and from 1960 studied at King's College London. This was followed by four years at the Slade School of Art, starting in 1963. He had a studio at Butler's Wharf, London, and was part of the Andrew Logan social scene in the 1970s. Read more on
Derek Jarman (January 31, 1942 – February 19, 1994) was an English film director, stage designer, artist, and writer. Jarman was born Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman in Northwood, Middlesex, boarded at Canford School in Dorset and from 1960 studied at King's College London. This was followed by four years at the Slade School of Art, starting in 1963. He had a studio at Butler's Wharf, London, and was part of the Andrew Logan social scene in the 1970s. On December 22, 1986 he was diagnosed HIV positive, and was notable for later discussing his condition in public. His illness prompted him to move to Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, near to the nuclear power station.

In 1994 he died of an AIDS-related illness. Chumbawamba subsequently released "Song for Derek Jarman" in his honour. Jarman's first films were experimental super 8mm shorts, a form he never entirely abandoned, and later developed further (in his films Imagining October (1984), The Angelic Conversation (1985), The Last of England (1987) and The Garden (1990)) as a parallel to his narrative work. Jarman first became known as a stage designer getting a break into the film industry as production designer for Ken Russell's The Devils (1970), and later made his debut in "overground" narrative filmmaking with the groundbreaking Sebastiane (1976), arguably the first British film to feature positive images of gay sexuality, and the first film entirely in Latin. He followed this with the film many regard as his first masterpiece, Jubilee (shot 1977, released 1978), in which Queen Elizabeth I of England is transported forward in time to a desolate and brutal wasteland ruled by her twentieth century namesake. Jubilee was arguably the first UK punk movie, and among its cast featured punk groups and figures such as Wayne County of Wayne County & the Electric Chairs, Jordan, Toyah Willcox, and Adam and the Ants. After making the unconventional Shakespeare adaptation The Tempest in 1979 (a film praised by several Shakespeare scholars, but dismissed by some traditionalist critics), Jarman spent seven years making experimental super 8 mm films and attempting to raise money for Caravaggio (he later claimed to have rewritten the script seventeen times during this period). Finally released in 1986, the film attracted a comparatively wide audience (and is still, barring the cult hit Jubilee, probably his most widely-known work), partly due to the involvement, for the first time, of the British television company Channel 4 in funding and distribution.

This marked the beginning of a new phase in Jarman's filmmaking career: from now on all his films would be partly funded by television companies, often receiving their most prominent exhibition in TV screenings. Caravaggio also saw Jarman work with actress Tilda Swinton for the first time. The conclusion of Caravaggio also marked the beginning of a temporary abandonment of traditional narrative in Jarman's work. Frustrated by the formality of 35mm film production, and the institutional dependence and resultant prolonged inactivity associated with it (which had already cost him seven years with Caravaggio, as well as derailing several long-term projects), Jarman returned to and expanded the super 8 mm-based form he had previously worked in on Imagining October and The Angelic Conversation. The first film to result from this new semi-narrative phase, The Last of England told the death of a country, ravaged by its own internal decay and Thatcher's economic restructuring. "Wrenchingly beautiful…the film is one of the few commanding works of personal cinema in the late 80's -- a call to open our eyes to a world violated by greed and repression, to see what irrevocable damage has been wrought on city, countryside and soul, how our skies, our bodies, have turned poisonous," wrote The Village Voice.

During the 1980s Jarman was still one of the few openly gay public figures in Britain and so was a leading campaigner against "anti-gay" legislation and to raise awareness of AIDS. During the making of The Garden, Jarman became seriously ill. Although he recovered sufficiently to complete the film, he never attempted anything on a comparable scale afterwards, returning to a more pared-down form for his concluding narrative films, Edward II (perhaps his most politically outspoken work, informed by his Queer activism) and the Brechtian Wittgenstein, a delicate tragicomedy based on the life of the eponymous philosopher. It was a later complaint of Jarman's that with the disappearance of the Independent Film sector it had become impossible for him to get finance. Jarman made a side income by directing music videos for various artists including Marianne Faithfull, The Smiths and the Pet Shop Boys. At the time when he made the film Blue, he was blind and dying of AIDS-related complications.

Blue consists of a single shot of saturated blue colour filling the screen, as background to a soundtrack composed by Simon Fisher Turner featuring original music by Coil and other artists, where Jarman describes his life and vision. When it was shown on British television, Channel Four carried the image whilst the soundtrack was broadcast simultaneously on BBC Radio 3, a collaborative project unique for its time. His final testament as a film-maker was the film Glitterbug made for the Arena slot on BBC2, and broadcast shortly after Jarman's death. Compiled and edited from many hours of super 8 footage shot with friends and companions throughout his career it is a moving collage of memories, people and moments lost in time, accompanied by a specially commissioned soundtrack from Brian Eno. Jarman's work broke new ground in creating and expanding the fledgling form of 'the pop video' in England, and as a forthright and prominent gay rights activist. Several volumes of his diaries have been published. Jarman also directed the 1989 tour by the UK duo Pet Shop Boys.

By pop concert standards this was a highly theatrical event with costume and specially shot films accompanying the individual songs. He is also remembered for his famous shingle cottage-garden, created in the latter years of his life, in the shadow of the Dungeness power station. The house was built in tarred timber. Raised wooden text on the side of the cottage is the first stanza and the last five lines of the last stanza of John Donne's poem, "The Sun Rising". The cottage's beach garden was made using local materials and has been the subject of several books.

At this time, Jarman also began painting again. Jarman was the author of four books: Dancing Ledge, The Last of England, Modern Nature, and At Your Own Risk. Filmography Feature Films * Sebastiane (1976) * Jubilee (1977) * The Tempest (1979) * The Angelic Conversation (1985) * Caravaggio (1986) * The Last of England (1988) * War Requiem (1989) * The Garden (1990) * Edward II (1991) * Wittgenstein (1993) * Blue (1993) Short Films * Electric Fairy (1971, nonextant) * Studio Bankside (1971) * Garden of Luxor (aka Burning the Pyramids, 1972) * Miss Gaby (1972) * A Journey to Avebury (1971) * Andrew Logan Kisses the Glitterati (1972) * Tarot (aka Magician, 1972) * Art of Mirrors (aka Sulphur, 1973) * Stolen Apples for Karen Blixen (1973) * Miss World (1973) * The Devils at the Elgin (aka Reworking the Devils, 1974) * Fire Island (1974) * Duggie Fields (1974) * Ula's Fete (aka Ula's Chandelier, 1975) * Picnic at Ray's (1975) * Sebastiane Wrap (1975) * Sloane Square: A Room of One's Own (1976) * Gerald's Film (1976) * Art and the Pose (1976) * Houston Texas (1976) * Jordan's Dance (1977) * Every Woman for Herself and All for Art (1977) * The Pantheon (1978) * In The Shadow Of The Sun (1980) (this compilation of Jarman's Super-8 shorts from 1974-1980 effectively serves as an extended music video for eponymous piece by Throbbing Gristle) * T.G.: Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981) * Jordan's Wedding (1981) * Pirate Tape (William Burroughs Film) (1982) * Waiting for Waiting for Godot (1982) * Pontormo and Punks at Santa Croce (1982) * B2 Tape/Film (1983) * Catalan (1984) * Imagining October (1984) * Aria (1987) (segment: "Depuis le Jour") * L'Ispirazione (1988) * Glitterbug (1994) (one-hour compilation film of various Super-8 shorts with music by Brian Eno) Jarman's early Super-8 mm work has been included on some of the DVD releases of his films. Music videos * The Sex Pistols: The Sex Pistols Number One (1976). Early live footage of the band. * Marianne Faithfull: "Broken English", "Witches' Song", and "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" (all 1979) * Throbbing Gristle: TG Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981) * Language: "Touch The Radio Dance" (1984)[1] (notable because it was shown at the Museum of Modern Art) * Orange Juice: "What Presence?!" (1984) * Marc Almond: "Tenderness Is a Weakness" (1984) * The Smiths: * * * The Queen Is Dead, a short film incorporating the Smiths songs "The Queen Is Dead", "Panic", and "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out". The "Panic" sequence from The Queen Is Dead was edited to form the video for that single (1986) * * * "Ask" (1986) * Matt Fretton: "Avatar" (1986) * Pet Shop Boys: "It's a Sin", "Rent", and "Projections". Read more on

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