The great and terrible Damien Hirst, whose second name is “Scandal”, at one time greatly raised the art world, exposing literally a dismembered body parts in galleries, today he paints completely harmless pictures with a spring mood in the spirit of impressionism.
And if from the very beginning of his professional career, Hirst always resorted to the help of assistants, sometimes completely delegating the physical embodiment of his ideas, now the artist paints life-affirming canvases with undisguised pleasure with his own hand.
Since the nineties, Damien Hirst has gone through an incredible evolution, at the heart of which was a loud revolution.Duality sneaked up on Hirst at school age. The mother raised the future artist strictly according to the rules of Catholicism, against which Hirst rebelled, joining the then active British hooligan punk movement.
Both rebellion and religion in the future will be manifested in one way or another in the work of Hirst. The guy did not study well, but he drew well, so he entered the art college.
During his studies, the young man visited the morgue in order to study anatomy for drawing. This visit had a great influence on the future art of Damien Hirst – the materials and techniques that he used in his works often reminded of morgues, and the name Hirst was inextricably associated with the theme of death.
For example, his first sensational work was the installation A Thousand Years. It consisted of the severed head of a cow lying in a pool of blood, on which flies bred, as well as an electric flycatcher on which these flies died.
All of this was housed in a display case, and Hirst used similar ones more than once. In this box, the artist showed us the full cycle of life, from birth to death, in all its absurdity. So he saw humanity from afar, aimlessly swarming on the planet.
The next, also one of his first and most characteristic works, is a tiger shark more than 4 meters long, preserved in formalin inside a display case. And it is on the same topic.
Hirst called it The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. The author, like many of us, understands: we all know that we will die, but we can never fully believe it.
Therefore, he once again reminds us of it. The size of the shark was important to him. It had to be big enough to eat a human. Hirst wanted to scare the viewer, he wanted him to feel the danger and the nearness of death.
In general, this idea arose when Damien Hirst got to the exhibition of the American artist Richard Serra, where the huge walls were so curved that it seemed to Hirst that they were about to fall on him.
Then he first felt such an experience – a physical fear from an object of art – and wanted to repeat it. Then he remembered another terrifying creation – the movie Jaws.
So I decided to use the shark and the instinctive horror that it caused. Hirst marinated this fear in formalin and framed it with a box that looked like a container from scientific laboratories, in order to arouse curiosity in the viewer in addition to fear.
By the way, Hirst respects science very much and devotes a lot of work to it. The artist considers it, that is, science, in a trinity with religion and art, as three approaches to life, with the goal of overcoming death.
And it is an important thesis that is relevant to many of Hirst’s works. For example, in his pharmaceutical series, where he turns a gallery hall into a pharmacy, displaying cabinets with anatomical exhibits and arranging pills in display cases and crosses.
The work Trinity – Pharmacology, Physiology, Pathology is indicative in this sense. The name contains a combination of religion and science. And it should be seen precisely in the context of their common goal – salvation from death.
In fact, the artist claims that he has considered science to be a new religion. The work The Crucifix has a similar meaning. The cross and tablets are here as symbols of what in the modern world gives hope for immortality – faith and medicine.
However, neither one nor the other can guarantee anything, so most of Damien Hirst’s works return to the Vanitas tradition and serve as a reminder of human mortality and the transience of life.
Hirst entered the history of art as a provocateur, as the one who expanded the boundaries of creativity. It was thanks to him that the widespread opinion that supposedly contemporary art “should shock the viewer” spread, however, it seems that with age, Hirst ceases to believe in it, and his recent works no longer shock anyone.
His project at the 2017 Venice Biennale amazed everyone with its beauty in the most literal sense of the word, but many were disappointed by the absence of knocking down “shock” provocations for which Hirst is so famous.
And the further work of the artist bears an even lighter and more positive character. After many years of “artistic outsourcing”, Damien returned to the studio, took up his brushes and paints cherry blossoms on giant canvases in pink shorts.
We can only guess whether it is age-related softening and a natural craving for conservatism, or a meaningful strategic move, or really thanks to his art, the artist found a successful way to combat the fear of death and is now celebrating life.