Damien Hirst was born in Bristol in 1965 and has become one of the most influential and prominent modern artists in the world. The exhibit holds over 70 of his works in a variety of mediums – from installation to sculpture and painting, pushing the boundaries of space where art and science, life and death, beauty and horror meet.
Death is a common theme in well-recognized works such as A Thousand Years 1990, a glass vitrine where hundreds of flies hatch, feed of the dead cow’s head and die; The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living 1991, a giant shark floating in formaldehyde; and Mother and Child Divided 1993, cow and calf dissected and preserved in formaldehyde.
In several installations, such as Lullaby, The Seasons 2002 and Pharmacy 1992, pills, medicine containers and surgical instruments are placed in carefully arranged patterns. The invasive instruments and less invasive medicines only point to the transient nature of life. With such skepticism towards modern medicine and its claim to halt all diseases and thus, death, Hirst says: “You can only cure people for so long and then they’re going to die anyway“.
On a lighter note, Hirst celebrates life and colour in his Spot Paintings and the Spin Paintings, evoking feelings of joy and liveliness. The theme of life continues in the installation In and Out of Love. In one room live butterflies hatch from the paintings, fly around, mate and lay eggs, while the second room features colorful mosaics made out of the wings of dead butterflies, forming beautiful patterns on monochrome canvases. Dual nature and constant tension between opposites demonstrates the complexity of Hirst’s works. He sums up:
Life and death are the biggest polar opposites there are. I like love and I like hate…I like all those opposites. On and off. Happy and sad. In artwork I always try to say something and deny it at the same time.
April – 9 September 2012
Tate Modern Museum
Admission £14 (£12.20 concessions)