Fully illustrated catalogue from the 2007 exhibition 'Damien Hirst: Beyond Belief' at White Cube, Mason's Yard and Hoxton Square. Includes an interview with Damien Hirst by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
In this exhibition, Hirst continued to explore the fundamental themes of human existence – life, death, truth, love, immortality and art itself. In two new series of paintings – the Birth Paintings and the Biopsy Paintings – Hirst confronts, as he put it, ‘the intense joy and deep-set anxiety we can all feel in hospitals, where we are surrounded by both creation and decay.' The Birth Paintings, which depict the birth of the artist’s youngest son Cyrus by Caesarean section in August 2005, are brutal, yet tender, images of the horror and beauty of childbirth.
The Biopsy Paintings, on the other hand, are based on biopsy images of thirty different forms of cancer and other terminal illnesses that the artist sourced from the Science Photo Library. In this series Hirst uses broken glass, scalpel blades and blood-like pools of paint in sumptuous, abstract swathes that repel and attract in equal measure. ‘I’ve always thought that art is a map of a person’s life, so it naturally changes as you change and get older’, Hirst said. ‘I suppose since I’ve become a father, I think even more about the end.’
For the Love of God is a life-size cast of a human skull in platinum, covered entirely by 8,601 VVS to flawless pavé-set diamonds, weighing a total of 1,106.18 carats. It is without precedent in the history of art. On one level, the work is a traditional ‘Memento Mori’, an object that addresses the transience of human existence. ‘The skull is out of this world, celestial almost’ writes the distinguished art historian Rudi Fuchs. ‘It proclaims victory over decay. At the same time’, Fuchs continues, ‘it represents death as something infinitely more relentless. Compared to the tearful sadness of a vanitas scene, the diamond skull is glory itself.'
Excerpt from exhibition text © Rudi Fuchs, 2007, courtesy White Cube Gallery
Damien Hirst was born in Bristol in 1965. He first came to public attention in 1988 when he conceived and curated ‘Freeze’, an exhibition of his own work and that of his contemporaries at Goldsmiths college, staged in a disused London warehouse. Since this time Hirst has become widely recognised as one of the most influential artists of his generation.
Through a varied practise of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing Hirst has sought to explore the complex relationship between art, life and death. Alongside over 80 solo exhibitions he has worked on numerous curatorial projects. In 2008, Hirst took the unprecedented step of bypassing gallery involvement in selling 244 new works at a Sotheby’s, London auction entitled ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever’.
Hirst was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995 and his contribution to British art over the last two and a half decades has been acknowledged in a major solo retrospective exhibited at Tate Modern, London. He lives in Devon and has studios in Gloucester and London.
Text © Damien Hirst & Science Ltd., All rights reserved, 2012