Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | March 23, 2008

Our Vocation and Our Challenge

Derek Jarman was a film-maker who was fascinated by alchemy, Queen Elizabeth I’s astrologer Dr John Dee, jazz, and the relationship between religion and sexuality, amongst many other interests. Tilda Swinton recently wrote of him:

He supported the hunch I had long before I met him, and which drew me to him in the first place: that life is too short a thing to spend outside of your own urges and instinct. An artist’s responsibility is to remain self-determining at all odds: uncooptable and free. Derek modeled exactly this measure of a responsibility met head-on. It was his vocation, just as it is any artist’s – and his challenge, just as it is ours. And if not ours, then whose?
Tilda Swinton

He lived in the beautiful, stark and surreal setting of a tiny wooden cottage on the beach near Dungeness nuclear power station.

There’s a Jarman exhibition at Tate Britain until 1 June 08. Details here.



  1. I visited Derek’s house about seven years ago with a friend, what a beautiful and inspiring place. His garden had been kept in pristine condition, with the most delicate seaside flowers and plants lovelingly nurtured, interspersed with wonderful shell and stone sculptures. The beach, a stone’s throw away, was desolate and magnificent, with the looming power station on the horizon in bizarre juxtaposition to the rest of the windswept landscape.
    It was emotional for us; we went to a local art gallery to view the last paintings he made, full of passion, angst and violence, against life, love and art itself.
    A hugely inspiring man.

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