Exhibition: Derek Jarman


gandy gallery

Paintings and collages

Exhibition: September 21 - December 05, 2000


Sex and death often go hand in hand in contemporary art, with explorations into the moment of rapture unfailingLy capable of attracting atten-tion. It can prove difficult, however, to traverse the fine line between what elicits excitement or disgust. British-born Derek Jarman was one artist whose work existed within that gray zone.

The current exhibition at Gandy Gallery presents work made by Jarman in the years before he died from AIDS-related complications at the age of 52. A smattering of paintings lines the walls of the space. By collaging thickly applied paint with text and found objects, Jarman created an assemblage of his own mortality. There are personal belongings lodged within the works; traces of his body, such as finger-smeared words carved into black and red paint, eerily evoke a sense of his physical presence. Simple but potent titles such as Kiss, Priest and Dying communi-cate some of the core ideas pervading his late work.

After Jarman was diagnosed as HIV-positive, he turned his illness into a source of inspiration rather than tragedy. While artists such as Ross Bleckner have used the topic of AIDS to produce work that appeals to sentiment, Jarman's work doesn't tear-jerk.

Darkly religious and exquisitely morbid, these collage-paintings seem to have been created in a state of exaltation.

Jarman was most widely known as a filmmaker, though he bridged many artistic disciplines throughout his career. In addition to the paintings on display, his 1990 cult film The Garden is being screened at the gallery.

Whether it's film, painting, theater, performance or poetry, Jarman's enchanting, melancholic style commands regard. Before his death, he was quoted as saying,

"Darkness is reassuring. I want to be consumed by it, enveloped in darkness." Try remembering that next time the lights go out .

Marisa Ravalli for THE PRAGUE POST October 2000