Derek Jarman's Modern Nature

27 Nov 2021-26 Feb 2022


"Friday 3 February 1989. I was describing the garden to Maggi Hambling at a gallery opening. And said I intended to write a book about it. She said: ‘Oh, you’ve finally discovered nature, Derek.’ ‘I don’t think it’s quite like that,’ I said, thinking of Constable and Samuel Palmer’s Kent. ‘Ah, I understand completely. You’ve discovered modern nature.’ "

Derek Jarman, Modern Nature (1991), p.8

John Hansard Gallery, part of the University of Southampton, is pleased to present Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature, curated with author Philip Hoare, opening from 27 November to 26 February 2022.

Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature draws on Derek Jarman’s extraordinary legacy as a radical artist, filmmaker, writer, gardener, and activist. The exhibition specifically focuses on his lifelong passion for plants, the human body, the landscape and the greater environment, as evidenced in the living artwork that is Prospect Cottage and its shingle garden in Dungeness, Kent. Created between 1987 and 1994, the house and garden continue Jarman's legacy into the 21st century as a kind of barometer of the deep past and the near future. 

Expanding on Jarman's time-travelling aesthetic, Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature will include rarely seen examples of his earliest landscape paintings, from the 1960s up to his vibrant late paintings of Dungeness from the 1990s. These will be presented in correspondence with works by Neo-Romantic artists such as John Minton, John Piper, Graham Sutherland, and Keith Vaughan; from the surrealists, Eileen Agar and John Banting, through to Albrecht Dürer's Renaissance darkness, all seeking to explore the depth of Jarman's influences and intuitions. The landscape becomes the body becomes the augury; at once mystical, alchemical, threatened, and fluid.

Illuminating Jarman's working practice and echoing the vivid narrative of his journals will be as yet unseen photographs of Dungeness and Jarman by his friend Howard Sooley, alongside an intimate portrait of Jarman by the British artist Maggi Hambling, coiner of the term ‘Modern Nature’.

Jarman’s feature film The Garden (1990) is reunited for the first time in public with production Polaroids by the film’s producer James Mackay, while Jarman's seductive, elusive and elemental Super 8mm films, including Journey to Avebury (1971) and Corfe Film (1975), along with his found assemblages, enter into dialogue with new artworks by a younger generation of artists inspired by Jarman's pervasive legacy, including Richard Porter, Tanoa Sasraku and Wolfgang Tillmans.

And in a new commission, responding to the first gardening book that a young Derek Jarman was given, filmmaker Sarah Wood has collaborated with Prospect Cottage’s gardener Jonny Bruce on Beautiful Flowers and How to Grow Them (2021), distilling Jarman's spirit via a questioning of how best to flourish in a hostile environment.

Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature is curated with Philip Hoare and features artists: Eileen Agar, John Banting, Albrecht Dürer, Maggi Hambling, James Mackay, John Minton, Richard Porter, Tanoa Sasraku, Howard Sooley, Graham Sutherland, Wolfgang Tillmans, John Piper, Keith Vaughan, Sarah Wood, and Derek Jarman.

Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature was originally due to take place in 2020, but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

This exhibition has been made possible through generous support from the following partners, lenders and collaborators: LUMA Foundation, Basilisk Communications, Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, Keith Collins Will Trust, Art Fund_, Creative Folkestone, Southampton City Art Gallery, The Ingram Collection, IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art, Manchester Art Gallery, HOME, Pilot Press.

Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature corresponds with the retrospective Derek Jarman: Protest! at Manchester Art Gallery from 1 December 2021 to 10 April 2022, curated by writer and broadcaster Jon Savage.


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