Tag Archives: Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst, a review

10 Jul

Summer in London means… more rain. After living here for almost 3 years, I can safely say that you shouldn’t rely solely on outdoor activities during the “hot” season. This brings me to a grey and rainy Sunday afternoon when all I wanted to do was leave the house. I was lucky enough to discover that one of the best museums in London, the Tate Modern, was open until late for the acclaimed Damien Hirst exhibition. I booked an 8:00pm slot and left the house, umbrella and wellies on, looking forward to an artistically refined evening.

Damien Hirst ruthlessly explores themes such as life’s transient and fragile nature or the individual’s relationship with religion, medicine and anything that will protect him/her from the undeniable reality of death. I know this might not sound like an ideal end to my Sunday afternoon, but the truth is that I felt surprisingly calm and wise after being exposed to the emotional, and often brutal, nature of Hirst’s work.

As some of you might know, Damien Hirst is famous for his Dot paintings and his series of dead animals in formaldehyde solution. Hirst’s current exhibition at the Tate includes many of the dead animals, such as the impressive shark called The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991. Although the shark was breathtaking, I have to say I was stunned/revolted/intrigued by Mother and Child (Divided), featuring a dead cow and a dead calf split in half (meaning each half is in a glass container and you can walk through them viewing both sides of their bodies). It was crazy — very crazy — and unnerving.

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Mother and Child (Divided)

The exhibition also featured Hirst’s butterfly pieces. Constantly exploring themes such as life and death, the fine line between the two, and the beauty of both stages, Hirst presents a variety of paintings and installations that feature dead and live butterflies. The first room of butterfly pieces showcases dead butterflies on a few colored canvases such as For Boys and Girls, 1989 – 1992. Next, you move on to a humid room filled with live butterflies flying around (In and Out of Love, White Paintings and Live Butterflies). Side comment– I grew up on a farm with many flies/butterflies/bees and still found this installation a bit weird and uncomfortable. Now that I look back on the experience, it makes me think that sometimes life can be uncomfortable… Life can indeed make us feel claustrophobic and overwhelmed. Sometimes, in art and maybe also in life, it might be easier to appreciate the stillness of death.

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In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies), 1991

After the room filled with real live butterflies, the exhibition takes you to other works by Damien Hirst, such as Loving in a World of Desire (a ball floating above a square base), and Beautiful, amore, gasp, eyes going into the top of the head and fluttering paintingThe exhibition ends with awe-inspiring paintings that look like stained glass windows but are actually made of dead butterflies and household gloss on canvas (Doorways to the Kingdom of Heaven, 2007). The three paintings stand beautifully next to each other, and in the middle of the room there is a glass container featuring a dead white dove, a symbol for many holy and peaceful things, called The Incomplete Truth, 2006.

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Doorways to the Kingdom of Heaven, 2007

It is difficult to explain how I felt after this exhibition; the truth is that words tend to simplify and flatten emotions, not doing justice to the magnitude of what I felt that Sunday evening. For the first time in my life, I understood that death could be beautiful. All of the dead animals in the exhibition finally made sense. After facing so much death and beauty, I was able to make a connection between the two and accept our undeniable fate with more ease and poetry.

– Natasha

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