Sunday, June 17, 2012

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst isn't an artist that I knew a huge amount about apart from reading a few reviews here and there, so it was great to go to his exhibition at the Tate Modern in London without too much expectation.  

Although each part of his works seems fragmented, it doesn’t take long to realise that they all have the interlinking aspect of life and death, in particular Hirst’s obsession with & the inevitability of death.     

There is a certain contradiction to his work in the way that everything seems very honest and exactly as it seems in an “it is what it is” type of way, however the underlying ideas behind his work completely contradict this (which is possibly the case with all artists). This is particularly apparent in the spot paintings. Really these are just seemingly boring but relatively pleasing spots painted on canvases in different sizes, however due to the  perfect size & shape of each spot and their precise position & colour, Hirst describes this as being "in control of colour instead of it in control of me".  

Further to this, one of the paintings is leaning against the wall rather than hanging as Hirst was once told that paintings should be hung and sculptures should be standing. This type of rebellion seems a little too contrived for me as if going against the grain is done to annoy people rather than being what you believe but from reading abit more about Hirst, I think this is part of who he is.  

Other displays showed animals in formaldehyde to appear as if they were living, a cow and her calf are sliced in half to show the inside and outside of a creature simultaneously, rows and rows of medicine cabinets with links to disease with Hirst claiming “you can only cure people for so long and then they are going to die anyway” and a huge ashtray filled with cigarette butts aptly entitled Crematorium.  

In contrast to the quite morbid aforementioned displays Hirst combines this with the more enchanting room full of live butterflies & butterfly wings that have been used to pattern stained-glass windows. This again however is linked to death by way of the fragility of life. The spinning paintings are the only works which don’t really seem linked to death and are really beautiful displays of colour. I do get the feeling however, from the way that they were painted from above to create distance, that Hirst didn’t get that much joy from producing them. 

Another contradiction that I actually loved were the eloquent names for alot of his works such as – Loving in a World of Desire, In and Out of Love, Lullaby, Doorways to the Kingdom of Heaven and Beautiful Inside my Head Forever. I quite liked that if you saw these names before you went into the exhibition without knowing anything about it, you would never expect to see maggots hatching & turning into flies that were either feasting on a severed cow head or being trapped and killed in an insect-o-cutor.     

The exhibition is definitely worth seeing if only to form your own opinion and although on the surface some of it seems a little pretentious, I like the ideas behind most displays and there were works that I really loved. Love him or hate him though, he has definitely made an impression in his career and how many people can honestly say that?!