Opening Reception: Saturday, May 12, 5-8pm
Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol and grew up in Leeds. In 1984 he moved to London, where he worked in construction before studying for a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths college from 1986 to 1989. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995.
Since the late 1980’s, Damien Hirst has used a varied practice of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing to explore the complex relationship between art, life and death. He explains, “Art’s about life and it can’t really be about anything else … there isn’t anything else.” Hirst’s work investigates and challenges contemporary belief systems, and dissects the tensions and uncertainties at the heart of human experience.
The show at IKON includes Spin paintings, Butterfly paintings, works from the Last Supper and the spot series.
Hirst describes his spot paintings as a means of “pinning down the joy of colour”, and explains they provided a solution to all problems he’d previously had with color. It has become one of the artist’s most prolific and recognisable series. Whilst the chance spontaneity of the spin paintings stands in stark contrast to the formulaic spot series, both explore the idea of an imaginary mechanical painter. The results of the spins are controlled purely by the artist’s color choices and the motion of the machine. Hirst explains the simplicity of their appeal: “I really like making them. And I really like the machine, and I really like the movement. Every time they’re finished, I’m desperate to do another one.”
Shortly after graduating, Hirst began work on a series of paintings inspired by seeing flies get stuck on primed canvases in his Brixton studio. Taking this idea but wanting to create something beautiful, Hirst started fixing the bodies of dead butterflies to monochrome gloss-painted canvases. Describing their visual effect as: “solid fucking gloss-paint horror,” the choice of household gloss is integral to the works, intended by Hirst to “look like an accident of paint with butterflies stuck on it”.
For the artist, the appeal of butterflies is created largely by the appearance of life they retain in death. The monochrome paintings are the earliest example of his use of the insects, which were to become one of his most recognisable motifs. On their repeated appearance in his work he explains: “I think rather than be personal you have to find universal triggers: everyone’s frightened of glass, everyone’s frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterflies.”
Since 1987, over 80 solo Damien Hirst exhibitions have taken place worldwide and his work has been included in over 250 group shows. Hirst’s first major retrospective ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ was held in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples in 2004. His contribution to British art over the last two and a half decades is recognised this year in a major retrospective of his work staged at Tate Modern.