By Bernie Bell
I watched a television programme called ‘Inside Art: Derek Jarman’ which was on Sky Arts on the evening of Monday the 28th February. It was presented by Kate Bryan and was mainly concerned with a retrospective exhibition of Derek Jarman’s work which was held in the Manchester Art Gallery. https://www.sky.com/watch/title/series/86949660-985a-424f-b5ab-f14105de2b64/inside-art-86949660-985a-424f-b5ab-f14105de2b64/episodes/season-0/episode-1
Kate Bryan presented it well – she met with people who knew Derek Jarman, many who were his friends, not the usual rent-a-pundit telly programme where folk blather on about someone’s work, mostly just from their own view – which could be said to be exactly what I’m about to do! But maybe that’s what Art produces – individual responses – some more informed than others!
Derek Jarman – I remember seeing his film ‘Sebastiane’ when it first came out in 1976 – and it was very controversial at the time – possibly still is…………..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuIWAN-XQzw
I don’t know this to be so but, in Father Ted, when Ted and Dougal are told to protest against a ‘blasphemous’ film being shown in the local cinema, and Dougal says that he’s sure St. Tibulus wore more clothes than that – I thought they must be referencing Derek Jarman’s film. Dougal also mentions ‘lads in the buff’ – and there are a lot of lads in the buff in the film!
Then there was ‘Jubilee’ – a disturbing film – but it was meant to be – highlighting the fractured, fragmented society of Thatcher’s Britain.
What would he be producing now – in these times?
My favourite of his films is his interpretation of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’……
Elisabeth Welch at the end, singing ‘Stormy Weather’, stays in the mind.
And there’s ‘Blue’ – just a blue screen, with voices and sounds following the journey of being diagnosed with and living with AIDS. And – the colour blue – Delphinium blue – beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo5BBifhS6M
Again, this echoes forward to these times – the virus – the invisible predator.
I’m not so familiar with his art-work, but….his shingle garden at Dungeness is a wonder. Festoons of small cork fishing floats, pillars of wood and stone rising from the shingle – a wonderful place, and as far as I can tell, a lovely man – a kindly, gentle man who overcame that gentleness to strike out against what he saw happening around him.
I was pleased to see that there was a retrospective of his work, and it was a very well put together, well presented programme which I hope will keep this lovely man and his often purposely un-lovely work, alive.
He shone a stark light on the time he lived in, and would be shining that light now, but The Fates decreed otherwise.