Beauté et effroi. Damien Hirst's Exhibition at the Tate

“I want art to be life but it never can be.” 

1 The physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991
  2 A Thousand Years, 1990
In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays), 1991
4 'Sympathy in White Major - Absolution II’, detail, 2006
The Incomplete Truth, 2006
Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. 

"Agony and Extasy" are the feelings you experience while visiting Damien Hirst's first major retrospective at the Tate Gallery. You feel overwhelmed by horror and beauty and knocked down by a carefully crafted sensational impact playing with your nerves. But more deeply you are trapped and you cannot escape thinking about death and the meaning of life. As art historian Rudy Fuchs analysed in Minimal Baroque and Hymns,"Many of the important themes in Hirst’s art, even when they are ambiguously expressed or genuinely puzzling, are religious by nature. Religious references are undeniably part of its idiosyncratic and iconographic atmosphere. I am not suggesting that it is Christian, but the images employed or implied, and the language of the titles, were clearly born out of ecclesiastical and biblical traditions. Death and life, pain and suffering, love and sacrifice, birth and decay, remorse and celebration, compassion: they are not only conditions and emotions central to everyone’s existence, but their relevance and profundity also originate and are shaped, in depth, by our religious and artistic history. Their deep meaning sounds mightily, also for the agnostic, in ‘Paradise Lost’.

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe. 
With loss of Eden..."

Key works from the artist’s most important series are displayed together with one of Hirst’s most iconic works, the ‘Natural History’ piece, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ (1991). These include a collection of the ‘Medicine Cabinets’ exhibited at Hirst’s Goldsmiths degree show in 1989 and the seminal fly vitrine, ‘A Thousand Years’ (1990) – considered by the artist to be amongst his most significant pieces. The artist Lucian Freud stated that, with ‘A Thousand Years’ being one of his earliest exhibited pieces, Hirst had perhaps “started with the final act”.

Tate Modern's Damien Hirst exhibition
4 April- 9 September 2012

A lire l'article de l'historien d'art Rudy Fuchs, Minimal Baroque and Hymns

I’ve got an obsession with death … But I think it’s like a celebration of life rather than something morbid. D.H.

The whole smoking thing is like a mini life cycle. For me, the cigarette can stand for life. The packet with its possible cigarettes stands for birth, the lighter can signify God, which gives life to the whole situation, the Ashtray represents death […] being metaphorical is ridiculous, but it’s unavoidable. D.H.

1 comment:

  1. Good post Katia. I find his works fascinating. I like his medicine cabinets especially....of course. CjW