Artist Gardens

Derek Jarman, Propect Cottage, Dungeness

Images shot on film, 2002.

British painter, theatre designer and film maker Derek Jarman’s garden exemplifies all our garden themes of life, hope, home, work and beauty.  Jarman worked his garden from 1986 until his death from AIDS in 1994.  In the forbidding landscape at Dungeness he created an oasis among the windswept stones.  The peripherey is loosley bordered with pointed stakes, a defensive palisade of sorts that recall the ruins of a fortification.  The garden is within this border but is almost indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape.  Within the staked border, the detritus of the coast has been collected and reconfigured.  The shingle stones evoke a Zen sand garden where they are raked into patterns.  A closer look reveals small, mandala-like constructions that invite contemplation.

The garden is filled with found objects: beach debris, driftwood, stones, and metallic objects, including fragments of wartime mines and shell casings.  The repeated contrast of traditional garden materials and miltary artifacts is a significant aspect of the garden.  Pointed shapes and tools stand vertically amid a landscape that is round and weathered.  Everything is rusty, found, used, and yet somehow evokes an arranged collection.  These inanimate sculptural artifacts become organic.  In his gardening journal, he described his garden as ‘very good therapy’.  He also refers to his garden as a paradise, magical site, treasure hunt, his Eden, and his Gethsemane. 

[Text extracted from Defiant Gardens by Kenneth I. Helphand]