Themes, Ideas, and Work of Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst is one of the most important artists of the last twenty years. Most of the themes in his art are of serious nature; life and death, sickness and Health, chaos and order. You might as well call Damien Hirst – Damien “Hearse.” Yet with a weighty subject like death at hand, Hirst explores it in a tongue in check fashion. You are more likely too see something like this installation of his in a science museum or amusement park. With these types of installations and sculptures, Damien Hirst makes many existential crises digestible for the everyman.
A good example would be the installation Pharmacy, which are huge medicine cabinets showing rows of pharmaceutical drugs. This installation expresses the world’s infinite variety of sicknesses and mankind’s attempt to regulate it so we can live longer. Pharmacy iterates the common notion that we fear the natural ending of our lives and how we use drugs, surgeries, and treatments to try and live for an infinite amount of time.
One element of three dimensional design Damien Hirst uses effectively is the sense of time in his work. A good example of this would be the instillation A Thousand Years, Which shows an actual life cycle of maggots which are actually an organism that is part of the decomposition cycle in nature. The maggots eventually turn into flies , in which they restart the process of decomposing a severed cow’s head which is also inside the steal and glass vitrune. The virtrune is divided between the maggots and the mature flies. The cow’s head is below an insect electrocuter and the flies in this part of the virtue have a difficult choice to make on whether or not they should fester on the rotting cow head or fly into the bug light. This, like many of Hirst’s other instillations shows his commentary on death and cycle of it. The title of the work also points the viewer into the direction of what Hirst is trying to say.
Hirst’s image in the art world has one that has been divided, some thinking that “he’s the guy who makes dead animals into artwork, ” whereas others think he explores a universal theme of death in extraordinary and interesting ways. Some think he is emblem an of the art market. Hirst’s grandiosity could be seen in the work For the Love of God which is a bronze casting of an actual human skull from a person living in the early eighteen hundreds in England. It is covered in 8,601 flawless diamonds and cost 14 million Euros to create. Ironically when it was sold to a group of investors for 100 million dollars, Damien Hirst was one of the investor trying to buy back his own art work. The first selling of the artwork was reported to be 50 million euro’s making this the most expensive piece of art work sold by a living artist. After seeing this piece of art, one might be overtaken by the sensation of seeing a human skull, which is seen in many cultures a signal for death, and the fact that it is covered in something very elegant and glamourous like diamonds. Hirst was part of the young British art movement that started in the late 1980’s and continued until the mid-to-late 90’s. many of the artists like Hirst favored shock tactics to visually communicate a message.
Hirst’s visual messages of death are ones that instill us with a grim outlook on life, but which is also an important part of it too. And by doing these installations he is able to successfully show how in the real world we are surrounded by death.
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2.) Kund, Holger. “Damien Hirst.” Art Now Volume 3. Ed. Hans Werner Holzwarth. Vol. 3. Art Now. Cologne: Taschen, 2008. 248-51. 3 vols.
3.) Morton, Tom. “Damien Hirst.” Frieze Magzine Sept. 2007: 4 pars. Frieze. 6 Mar. 2009 <http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/damien_hirst1/>.