Home Places to visit Derek Jarman exhibition at The Garden Museum

Derek Jarman exhibition at The Garden Museum

Prospect Cottage circa 1990. Picture; Howard Sooley
Prospect Cottage circa 1990. Picture; Howard Sooley

My Garden’s Boundaries are the Horizon, April 24-July 12

This exhibition looks like it’s worth a trip to London in itself! Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature book is one of my all-time favourites and not just in the gardening book category. If he can make a garden in his environment, we all can.

The story of Derek Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottage, Dungeness will be told in a new exhibition at the Garden Museum in London, the first exhibition to focus on the role of the garden in his life and work.

For the first time, art and film will be displayed alongside diaries, sketchbooks, his ‘Garden Notebooks’, tools and furniture borrowed from inside the cottage.

The garden at Prospect Cottage circa 1990. Picture; Howard Sooley
The garden at Prospect Cottage circa 1990. Picture; Howard Sooley

Rare chance to see Jarman’s work

Owing to the size and fragility of the cottage, which is not open to the public, the exhibition will be a rare opportunity to experience Jarman’s art, garden, and life.

The exhibition will include films and archival material recorded by Jarman on his hand-held Super 8 camera at Prospect Cottage, which was the location for films including The Last of England (1987) and The Garden (1990).

Paintings and sculptures will be on loan from The Keith Collins Memorial Will Trust. His black paintings of the 1980s, covered with tar and found objects from the beach and garden, are a response to his HIV diagnosis; while his colourful landscapes from the early 1990s evoke the joy and beauty experienced in the garden at Prospect Cottage.

Derek Jarman at Prospect Cottage circa 1990. Picture; Howard Sooley
Derek Jarman at Prospect Cottage circa 1990. Picture; Howard Sooley

Fisherman’s shack at Dungeness

Jarman acquired Prospect Cottage, a fisherman’s shack on the shingle at Dungeness, for £32,000, when he came across the building with a ‘For Sale’ sign while filming with Tilda Swinton and his partner Keith Collins. Having been diagnosed with HIV on December 22, 1986, Jarman had resolved ‘to get as much out of life as possible’ and started creating a garden.

The only contemporary garden to be made without a boundary, Jarman’s garden stands beside a nuclear power station; the shingle, wind and salt from the sea provide an extreme version of gardening with the ‘right plant for the right place’ philosophy.

It evokes an uplifting sense that if a garden can be made on a stony beach, overlooked by a power station, it can be made on any site.

‘The great work of art of modern times’

Garden Museum Director Christopher Woodward said: “Prospect Cottage – as a combination of building, garden and landscape and as an inspiration to Jarman’s own writing, films and painting – is the great work of art of modern times.”

Jarman’s garden became inseparable from illness but in his writings, in particular Modern Nature (1989), in this extract from February 28, 1989: “I have never been happier than last week. I look up and see the deep azure sea outside my window in the February sun, and today I saw my first bumblebee. Planted lavender and clumps of red hot poker.”

For more information about The Garden Museum, visit www.gardenmuseum.org.uk.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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