25 April - 5 October 2014
‘The void of painting is always a difficult thing. It's infinite really. There's no gravity in painting, so it's even more infinite than space.'
Damien Hirst in conversation with Michael Craig-Martin, Tate catalogue, 2012
Painting has always been an important part of Hirst's oeuvre, but unlike the spot paintings and photorealist series which were made using a collaborative studio process, this body of work is altogether more personal: painted from life, by Hirst in his Devon studio.
The paintings, often intimate in size, could be seen as traditional still life, depicting an array of carefully arranged elements, both natural and inanimate, sometimes momento mori, alongside objects and formal devices that have made their appearance in Hirst's sculptures and installations before. Exquisitely coloured birds on display stands or in simple glass boxes, butterflies, fruit and cherry blossom at the peak of its beauty, intimate the pure joy of spring’s transition into summer but also the temporal significance of this natural phenomenon. Next to these bucolic objects, more sinister symbols take their place: oversized scissors, a shark's gaping jawbone, bell jars and even several lonely single or conjoined foetuses floating in jars, elements that are displaced from the laboratory table rather than the domestic one. Some objects are painted with clarity and impasto; others appear hazy and faint, as if they are somehow more insubstantial, part of a sudden apparition or dream-like vision.
With their bold handling of paint, accents of bright colour and sharply defined highlights, these works invoke a sense of the moment, a creative urgency. Different textures, depths of colour, tactility and paint application work to create beguiling images that collage various different emotive qualities, setting them apart from the conceptualism of Hirst's earlier work. As Manuela Mena has written in her catalogue essay: 'Hirst creates his system of inextricably woven and flexible order... to create space: he is not tied to perspective, contrasts of light and shadow, planes of flat colours. He has addressed the subject of still-life with a code of expression that is entirely his own.'
‘Damien Hirst / Arnulf Rainer'
Arnulf Rainer Museum
+43 (0) 2252 209196 11
Daily: 10am – 5pm
Damien Hirst 'A Magpie' 2010 Oil on canvas
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2013 Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd Courtesy White Cube