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About Damien HirstThe Empresses A recurring theme in Damien Hirst’s works, the butterfly, epitomises beauty and transience. In his most recent five-part series, the old master of the Young British Artists explores a topos that, above all, challenges our knowledge of Western history. The silk-screen works, printed with a fine lustre, are all named after female rulers whose respective provenances were
BACKGROUND INFORMATIONThe Empresses
A recurring theme in Damien Hirst’s works, the butterfly, epitomises beauty and transience. In his most recent five-part series, the old master of the Young British Artists explores a topos that, above all, challenges our knowledge of Western history. The silk-screen works, printed with a fine lustre, are all named after female rulers whose respective provenances were Persian-Indian, Byzantine, Chinese, Japanese and Ethiopian history. Hirst pays tribute to these outstanding, though largely unknown queens: Nur Jahan, Theodora, Wu Zetian, Suiko, Taytu Betul not only by a dazzling work of art, but also with a distinctive pattern, which reveals itself to be a finely crafted mosaic composed of count-less butterfly wings. The form and appearance of the mosaic refer, in turn, to historical and biographical aspects of these regents. To appreciate the images in their full depth and significance, this encourages us, the viewers, to examine the lives and heritage of these remarkable women.
Founding member of the Young British Artists Damien Hirst proves that one way of remaining true to yourself is by reinventing yourself. With his large-format Cherry Blossoms, he fulfilled an old dream of his and his mother’s: Back when he submerged a tiger shark in formaldehyde, she implored him to at least once paint flowers. Three years ago, he did just that. Working alone and in seclusion, Hirst spent three years producing an inordinate number of paintings. In all versions, he applied enormous quantities of paint onto canvases arranged in parallel in his London studio. He painted and dripped, he flung paint, he approached the canvas in a state of intoxication and stepped back to inspect it – until his vision, expressed in paint, resembled a Japanese cherry blossom. So far, these works could be admired at the Fondation Cartier and the National Art Center Tokyo. Anyone familiar with Hirst knows that for him the cherry blossom is a symbol not just of beauty but also of ephemerality. In this way, Hirst has remained true to his most central theme.
About the Artist
At the beginning there was a dot. Circular, neither too large nor too small, unimposing, coloured. One dot, plain and simple. It stood on the wall of a warehouse in London, an area converted into an exhibition space. Other dots soon appeared around this dot, equidistant from one another, painted onto the wall. A square grid of coloured dots emerged. To prove how diverse such a grid of coloured dots could be, Damien Hirst painted a second next to it. They were called “Edge” and “Row”.
The effect was so effortlessly successful, the focus on a theme so profound. How can colours so concentrated, so bare, and yet so full of meaning, become art, become an image style? “Edge” and “Row” were both a product and the beginning of an artistic approach to colour that has been continually evolving since 1988.
Some of the grids remind us of medicines in the pharmaceutical industry. The soft pastel colours and uniform patterns of the coloured pills suggest a pain-free zone. The cryptic title given to the series by Hirst is also evocative of pharmaceutical ingredients. They have names that, were you to place them next to one another and read aloud, would sound like a poem in concrete prose: Mepromate Lepidine Histidyl - Abalone Acetone Powder.
The transferability of meaning and the transformation of content is very much in keeping with the style of the artist. One might recall the live tiger shark Hirst submerged in formalin in 1991. A silent killer of the deepest oceans, it looked out at the viewers from inside an enormous blue container, mouth wide open, teeth razor sharp. The threatening work was given the name “The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living”. Can anyone divide public opinion and whip the global art market into a frenzy in such a way? In 2007 he produced a human skull made from platinum and encrusted with 8601 pure diamonds, including a 52 carat diamond centrepiece mounted on the forehead. The skull was bought by an investment group for around $100 million. The plot thickened as we later learned that Hirst himself was a member of the group.
Hirst’s art is created to be ambivalent and revolves around a focal point in his thinking: “I’ve got an obsession with death … But I think it’s like a celebration of life rather than something morbid”. Whether preserving animals in formalin, creating kaleidoscopic images from butterflies, or covering skull x-rays with captivating colour mixtures, the young Tate Modern artist always manages to give death a smile.
1965 Born in Bristol, UK 1986-1989 Goldsmith College „Fine Arts“ 1988 Curator of the exhibition „Freeze“, Surrey Docks, London, UK 1990 Curator of the exhibition „Modern Medicine“, Building One, London, UK 2007 The artwork “For the Love of God” is sold for € 75 Million and is the most expensive work of contemporary art according to British media reports Lives in Devon and has Studios in London, Gloucester and Devon, UK