LONDON — Prospect Cottage, Derek Jarman’s home in Dungeness, England, has had a very good 2020. A campaign to save it from being sold off to a private owner managed to raise over £3 million. The new exhibition at the Garden Museum, My garden’s boundaries are the horizon, offers a recreation of the cottage itself, complete with artifacts from its interior in Dungeness. This installation, along with other pieces of visual art by Jarman, come together in order to create a response to HIV that is at once personal — rooted specifically in Jarman’s own diagnosis— and political, shining a light on wider issues of institutional homophobia.
Jarman’s best-known response to his diagnosis is his experimental masterpiece, Blue (1993), but the visual art on display here possesses a unique and haunting ability to trace the physical disintegration brought on by the artist’s illness. A series of small, abstract landscape paintings adorn one of the walls in the recreated cottage; all bear titles like “Prospect” or “Landscape,” and offer an intensely felt response to the landscape in which Jarman embedded himself for much of his later life. Rather than representing the garden itself, these works focus only on its colors, eschewing recognizable forms. They’re striking not only in their abstraction, but also for the ways in which they reflect Jarman’s own relationship with the landscape, which seemed to serve as a kind of utopia for him. The loss of this utopia in the wake of his HIV diagnosis is heartbreakingly rendered in “Ego et in Arcadia (Aids Memoir Prospect Cottage)” from 1992. This painting is a variation on Jarman’s brighter, more utopian landscapes — abstract, color-driven responses to the landscape and garden — but its tones are darker, and more morbid. The bright greens and yellows of earlier landscapes are replaced with blacks and reds; life itself seems to have been drained from the garden, replaced with a dark vision of Jarman’s own fate. Even the title of the piece — a reference to an eponymous painting by Nicolas Poussin — casts the shadow of death over Jarman’s home.
This installation illustrates how personal Prospect Cottage was to Jarman, and imbues the experience of walking through the exhibition with a kind of ghostly quality; knowing that this is a recreation of a building on the other side of the country is an uncanny feeling — one that enhances both the feeling of a connection with Jarman, and the ways in which his art reckons with the idea of loss. A pair of large paintings, “Oh zone” and “Acid Rain” (both from 1992) approach this loss from a wider perspective, featuring text on minimal, abstract backgrounds, which serves as an environmentalist political statement.
It’s impossible to look at Jarman’s visual art as being only personal; it’s impossible to separate this work from the wider political concerns of his time, seen in the ways it considers the wider discriminations that queer men dealt with then, and continue to deal with today. Jarman’s film The Garden (1990) explores these concerns most explicitly. Filmed at Prospect Cottage, it offsets the sanctuary of his home with the political struggles of gay men — from homophobic violence, to an oncoming environmental catastrophe — serving as a counterpoint to work like “Oh zone.”
Offering a singular vision of Jarman’s creative life, my garden’s boundaries are the horizon illustrates how the artist saw the world, even as his sight was fading. His works are uncompromising, presented in a space that’s at once haunted and transcendent, indicating that the world, for all of its problems — and there are a lot of them — is always worth fighting for.
Derek Jarman: My garden’s boundaries are the horizon continues through September 20 at the Garden Museum (5 Lambeth Palace Road, London). The exhibition was curated by Emma House and the cottage was designed by Jeremy Herbert.
The Association of Art Museum Directors announced a shift in its longstanding policy, which restricted the use of funds from sales of art to new acquisitions only.
Martín Mobarak may have broken Mexican law, but he burned the proof.
Artists reflect on histories of oppressive power structures in Brazil in this exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including the Maya Codex of Mexico at the Getty, Beatrice Wood, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and more.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including Xaviera Simmons, Cristina Iglesias, Mire Lee, and more.
With explosions of color and materiality, Cave has his own enigmatic ways to funnel the funk through histories of adversity.
Kapwani Kiwanga invites viewers to look with only the quiet glow of natural light seeping in through the skylights, illuminating a nuanced way of seeing race.
Funding options at UB include full-tuition scholarships for MFA students, the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program, and additional opportunities for MA students.
This week, Godard’s anti-imperialism, in defense of “bad” curating, an inexplicable statue, criminalizing culture wars, and more.
I inserted the text from five press releases into DALL-E and this is what it churned out.
As protests rage across the country following the death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, Iranian and Kurdish artists are creating work in support of freedom.