Posted at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2008
by Euan Kerr
I was lucky enough to meet Jarman twice. The first time was at the Walker Art Center when he came through to show "Caravaggio" I believe. I later met him in Glasgow when he mounted an exhibit of his paintings at the Kelvingrove Galleries.
For someone who was seen as a provocateur, and a revolutionary, Jarman was a mild-mannered fellow. When I went to see him in the Kelvingrove he was mounting his pictures in a side-gallery. They were oils, with objects he had found over the years embedded in the thick paint. They were quite striking, particularly the paintings with the photographs he had gathered from an Italian studio which had prepared portraits of individuals for inclusion on their gravestones.
I introduced myself and began pulling out my tape recorder and other radio paraphernalia. Jarman was hand printing the name of each piece on the wall beside it. I realized he was naming them as we went down the line.
"What should we call this one, Euan?" he suddenly asked. I was taken aback. It was just wild that one of the best known artists in the nation was asking me to help name works he had created over months in the studio. I eventually spluttered out something like that and he came up with something himself.
Talking with Derek Jarman was an education in itself. He drew on his knowledge of art and the classics and mixed it with a deep and angry knowledge of how the world was changing. He made no secret of being HIV positive, and was on the forefront of demanding that the British Government take the health threat seriously.
His early films are jarring and confrontational but as he grew older his work became more contemplative. He also turned to writing and his diaries and other writings about his life in a cottage on the coast are infused with a sad beauty, laced with occasional anger.
It's been more than 14 years since Jarman died, and while his name may not be on the lips of many people, his influence on British film making cannot be denied, and perhaps as a result it has also been felt in the US.
I am now greatly looking forward to seeing the new documentary "Derek."
Here's an excerpt from his adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest."