Derek Jarman, ‘Ataxia - Aids is Fun’ 1993
Derek Jarman
Ataxia - Aids is Fun 1993
© 2018 The Keith Collins Will Trust / Derek Jarman

After establishing an international reputation as a film director, Jarman continued painting, making his first ‘black’ painting in 1980, by scratching through a layer of black in order to uncover selectively a ground of gold leaf. Jarman’s 1984 retrospective (London, ICA) demonstrated his increasingly political stance, characterised by an anti-Thatcherism and a preoccupation with social disintegration, which culminated in his 1987 film The Last of England. He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1986, primarily for his achievements as a filmmaker, and in particular for Caravaggio. The relationship between film and painting continued to be central to Jarman’s work; the non-narrative flow of imagery and improvisatory collage-like quality of his films was more suggestive of a painterly than a cinematic sensibility.

Jarman was diagnosed as HIV-positive in December 1986. His last set of paintings were highly coloured works in which a word or slogan was daubed across an effusively scraped and splattered ground, again dealing with aspects of his illness. The violence and anger of these paintings contrasts with the serenity of his final film, Blue (1994). Made when he was virtually blind, it consisted solely of a monochrome blue screen, with a soundtrack of voice and music.