Magazine article Artforum International

Derek Jarman

Magazine article Artforum International

Derek Jarman

Article excerpt

WILKINSON

Derek Jarman's best-known paintings are probably the "Evil Queen" series of 1993--the final group of angry, colorful, expressionistic works he made before his death the following year. Yet the "Black Paintings," created between 1986 and 1993--some seventeen of which were neatly hung on the ground floor--offer a wider range of insights into his artistic practice. These small, squarish painted assemblages, made primarily with tar and black oil paint embedded with objects, have rarely been exhibited since his death. Their imagery includes wreaths, thorns, Christ, widows, smashed glass, teeth, superheroes and villains, bullets, and paintbrushes; also contained in them are the seeds of the protest-driven queer spirit that would lead to the "Evil Queens." Their dark, poetic humor crossed with Catholic imagery, however, lends them a greater range of feeling.

For example, I.N.R.I., 1988, consists of a He-Man action figure (from the Masters of the Universe franchise) tied to and seemingly hugging a blackened plastic crucifix, while two figurines of the character's nemesis, Skeletor, are stationed just below him wielding metal bars and rings. All three figures are attached to a grid-like field of rusty beer and soft-drink cans, creating a triangular formation, with a heart shape made of beads in one corner. In general, these works are simply composed, with icon-like centralized compositions radiating from the middle and laid out evenly on the canvases. In They've Done It In, 1987, the words WORK ETHIC are scratched on a smashed piece of glass under a headless figure on a pedestal, all centrally aligned on a painterly black field with seeds scattered around.

Although better known as a filmmaker than a painter--his iconic short Waiting for Waiting for Godot, 1983, was screened in the upper gallery--Jarman had originally trained in painting at art school. …

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