Entomology Cabinets and Paintings, Scalpel Blade Paintings and Colour Charts
Damien Hirst’s wide-ranging practice – installation, sculpture, painting and drawing – has sought to challenge the boundaries between art, science and popular culture. His energy and inventiveness, and his consistently visceral, visually arresting work, has made him a leading artist of his generation.
Hirst explores the uncertainty at the core of human experience; love, life, death, loyalty and betrayal through unexpected and unconventional media. Best known for the ‘Natural History’ works, which present animals in vitrines suspended in formaldehyde such as the iconic The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) and Mother and Child Divided (1993), his works recast fundamental questions concerning the meaning of life and the fragility of biological existence. For Hirst, the vitrine functions as both window and barrier, seducing the viewer into the work visually while providing a minimalist geometry to frame, contain and objectify his subject. In many of the sculptures of the 1990s, such as The Acquired Inability to Escape (1991) and The Asthmatic Escaped (1992) a human presence was implied through the inclusion of relic-like objects: clothes, cigarettes, ashtrays, tables and chairs. That implied human presence became explicit in Ways of Seeing (2000), a vitrine sculpture with a figure of a laboratory technician seated at a desk looking through a microscope. The more celebratory work Hymn (2000), a polychrome bronze sculpture, reveals the anatomical musculature and internal organs of the human body on a monumental scale. Hirst is equally renowned for his paintings. These include his ‘Butterfly Paintings’, that consist of actual butterflies suspended in paint, or thousands of butterfly wings arranged in a mandala-like pattern, as seen in the work Amazing Revelations (2003). His ‘Spin’ series are made with a machine that centrifugally disperses the paint steadily poured onto a shaped canvas surface, while his ‘Spot’ series have a rigorous grid of uniform sized dots. Recently, he has explored photo-realism in the ‘Fact’ paintings.
In 2007, Hirst unveiled arguably his most provocative work, For the Love of God; a life-sized platinum cast of a human skull, covered entirely by 8,601 VVS to flawless pavé set diamonds. Without precedent within art history, the work is a traditional memento mori, an object that addresses the transience of human existence.
Most recently, Hirst has embarked on a series of paintings that represent a remarkable and radical shift in his artistic and studio practice. Renowned for producing several of his key works within a tightly controlled studio system, with his new series of ‘Skull’ paintings, Hirst has returned to the ‘most direct form of production, with all the attendant artistic consequences: facing the canvas, the individual painterly act, the creative process, the artist’s emotional balance – alone; being at the mercy of issues raised by the picture, at the mercy of the creator, of oneself…’
Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol, UK. He lives and works in London and Devon. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions including Our Magic Hour, Yokohama Triennale, The Luminous Interval, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and Modern British Sculpture, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2011), Pop Life, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg (2010) and Tate Modern, London (2009), Barock, MADRE, Naples (2009), Color Chart, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Broad Contemporary Art Museum and LACMA, Los Angeles (2008), Play Back, Musée de la Ville de Paris and Re-Object, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz (2007) Into Me / Out of Me, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2006), In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Tate Britain (2004), the 50th Venice Biennale (2003) and Century City, Tate Modern (2001). Solo exhibitions include Cornucopia, The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco (2010), No Love Lost, The Wallace Collection, London (2009), Requiem, Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev (2009), For the Love of God, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2008), Astrup Fearnley Museet fur Moderne Kunst, Oslo (2005), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2005) and The Agony and the Ecstasy, Archaeological Museum, Naples (2004). An exhibition of the artist’s private collection, ‘Murderme’, was held at Serpentine Gallery, London in 2006. He received the DAAD fellowship in Berlin in 1994 and the Turner Prize in 1995. In 2012, Tate Modern exhibited the most comprehensive survey of Damien Hirst’s work ever held in the UK.