Back in April 2020, Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage was saved from private ownership by a massive public campaign, demonstrating its importance in British art history. Now, Studio West is paying homage to the Dungeness cottage’s iconic garden, with a multidisciplinary group show titled Gardening on Borrowed Time.
Taking place almost 30 years after the iconic artist, activist and filmmaker passed away from AIDS-related illness, the exhibition brings together six artists who have each spent time at Jarman’s black and yellow homestead, which sits on the bleak shingle coast of the English Channel. As such, their work is directly influenced by his life and art, pulling from his journals, films, and photographs of his garden in bloom.
Among these artists are Alfie Rouy, whose automatic drawings and enigmatic paintings aim to capture “the flow of versatile, fluid-like energies, frequencies and vibrations” that link the Earth and the mind, and sculptor Nic Sanderson, who takes inspiration from Jarman’s own, hole-y sculptures to explore themes of grief, loss and memory.
Another sculptor featured in the show is Camilla Bliss, whose tactile forms – dubbed “flowers at the edge of the world” – tap into the otherworldly qualities of the garden’s surroundings. Then, there’s painters Charlie Boothright and Xiaochi Dong, who each present abstract works, taking inspiration from Jarman’s loss of sight (as captured in 1993’s Blue) and the quiet reprieve he found at Prospect Cottage.
Finally, Gardening on Borrowed Time is rounded out by a film by Billy Sassi, using Jarman’s own Super 8 experiments as a jumping-off point. The result is a colourful silent film that forgoes typical narrative structure to investigate theatricality and the “tensions that emerge from presence and stillness”, via a lone figure wearing an oversized mask.
Get a preview of the artworks in the gallery above.