No contemporary artist is more celebrated, contested or controversial than Damien Hirst, his work has dominated galleries, newspapers and auction houses. In addition to being a creative visionary Hirst has proved to be a savvy businessman, he has combined his fame and notoriety into an art empire becoming one of the wealthiest living artists today. He is the most prominent member of the group known as the Young british Artist's who dominated the art scene in Britain in the 1990's and are known for their unusual materials and for challenging art concepts.
As a teenager Hirst liked to look at illustrated pathology books, fascinated by the images of disease and injury.Through his art he explores human experiences such as love, life, death, loyalty and betrayal through a variety of media, including painting ( Spot paintings and Spin paintings ), medicine cabinet sculptures, glass tank installations and drawings.
The central, though not exclusive theme of Hirst's work has been an exploration of mortality, a traditional subject that Hirst has updated and extended with wit, verve, originality and force. He is best known for a series of works ( The Natural History Series ) in which dead animals are presented as a Memento mori ( Latin for - " Remember you will die" ) in forms ironically appropriated from the museum of natural history rather than of art. ( www.leninimports.com/damien_hirst.html )
With Damien Hirst's art there is the pervasive sense of a joke being played on the crowd, a sense that has developed ever since the young Hirst said he wanted to get to the point where he could get away with bad art. But glance into that crowd and it suddenly seems unreasonable to damn Hirst too quickly. All around you may find people looking, really looking at objects in new ways albeit shockingly- an important aim for an artist.
Although Hirst participated physically in the making of early works, he has always needed assistants and now the volume of work produced neccessitates a 'factory' set-up, this has led to questions about authenticity. He describes in an interview one painting assistant who was leaving and asked for one of his Spot paintings ( which have become an icon of his work ) Hirst told her to " make one of your own " and she said " No, I want one of yours " Hirst replied "But the only difference, between one painted by you and one of my own is money.
Hirst sees the real creative act as being the conceptor, not the execution, and that, as the progenitor of the idea, he is therefore the artist - Wikipedia ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damien_Hirst )
|Damien Hirst with one of his paintings made up of thousands of butterfly wings |
entitled - I am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds
( 5.1 x 2.13metres )
The artist's company would not say where the insects came from but commented that he had them specially bred for previous projects-including a stained-glass-style window made up also of butterfly wings. According to Hirst " I wanted to use real butterfly wings and not just pictures of butterflies, because I wanted it to shimmer when the light catches it like only real butterflies do, and we were trying not to add any extra weight to the bike.
|Made up entirely of butterflies|
|Bringing Forth the Fruits of Righteousness and Darkness|
At an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum which documents Hirst’s life work proves that God, or more broadly speaking religion, has been a life-long concern of the artist. The exhibition booklet recalls the four most important things in life according to Damien: science, art, love and religion. This quote was to compliment the content of a room in which science – supposedly the antithesis of religion – is celebrated as the dominant of the four components: glass cabinets of operating tools, and plastic models of the body are presented in front of graph paper walls. Yet, meters away in the next room was the profoundly beautiful butterfly altarpieces – a tribute to nature’s design.There was a triplet of arched canvases, hung like three stain glass windows in a grand Romanesque cathedral entitled ' Bringing Forth the Fruits of Righteousness and Darkness.' On top of a coat of royal red paint, was stuck brilliant brightly coloured breathless butterflies, so they appear like polychrome glass.
It is believed that butterflies symbolise the resurrection, because they are like a resurrection body – once a larva, then transformed to a pupa before a butterfly.
The theme Memento mori comes through strongly in these beautiful pieces of art as many butterflies had to die to make them.
An African artist who is often included in major world shows El Anatsui strikes a rare combination of stunning beauty, fascinating communal process and deep metaphorical and poetic meaning. He draws on artistic and aesthetic traditions from his birth country of Ghana, his home Nigeria and various Western art forms. Anatsui’s work is about transformation, he addresses a vast range of social, political and historical concerns through his central themes of the erosion of inherited traditions by powerful external forces and their manner of survival and transmission into the present.
For his metal wall hangings, Anatsui recycles bottle caps from a distillery in his home town, piecing them together to form monumental curtains patterned with rows upon rows of different brands of liquor bottle caps. For the artist, given liquor’s key history in the slave trade, these works reference relationships between Europe, Africa and the United States. Not only does Anatsui’s alchemical transformation of discarded materials raise pressing issues of global consumerism, but it highlights the blurring of geographic identities. ( http;/www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/B )
At once sculpture and painting, Anatsui’s wall hangings drape, ripple and cascade to reflect light and create shadowy pockets. As has been enthusiastically noted in reviews around the world, viewers of Anatsui’s work exult in its overwhelming splendor and in each work’s contradictory combination of weight and lightness. Just as each work is greater than the sum of its thousands of parts, its meaning transcends the particular cultural influences that inform the artist’s practice. Anatsui’s assembled objects embody a universal relatability that strikes a chord in every one of us. ( http;/www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/B )
Anatsui uses young people in Nigeria who have finished high school and are waiting to take their university entrance exams as assistants, " So while waiting for that, they pass away the time helping me in the studio and making a very good living. Most of them are too impatient to be artists, but they enjoy working with the materials. I think the fact that I use several hands lends something. The presence of all these hands - from the assistants, the handlers and myself - I think it adds a charge to the art. I'm beginnning to think that it might be moving in a spiritual. direction" (http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/34119/a-coversation-with-el-anatsui/ )
In my opinion an artwork whether it be a painting, sculpture, drawing or installation, should cause some lasting shift in your equilibrium and leave one with a lingering sense of beauty. I'm not sure as in the case of the majority of Damien Hirst's art that being depressed, appalled or deeply shocked counts.......