Edition of 15
3 colour foil block on 300gsm
The Souls IV Raven by Damien Hirst
“I love butterflies because when they are dead they look alive. The foilblock gives them a feel similar to the actual butterflies in the way that they reflect the light. After ‘The Dead’ I had to do the butterflies because you can’t have one without the other.” – Damien Hirst
The Souls IV Raven by Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst has intensified his career-long fascination with the beauty, fragility and symbolism of butterflies to create a spectacular and multi-allusive evocation of mortality. More than that of any contemporary artist, and in a modern lineage that includes the work of Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon, the art of Damien Hirst confronts the balances between life and death, vanity and transience, value and worth, faith and existential alienation with a visceral and terrifying immediacy. Hirst’s choices of media, his innovations within them and the sheer scale on which he works, are integral to the philosophical depth and empathetic charge of his art; and to this end, Hirst has always pioneered in his work the uses, aesthetics and allegorical meanings of science and technology, as well as refining a highly sophisticated engagement with craft and technique.
In total ‘The Souls’ is made up of 4 butterflies, in 80 different colourways, each one in an edition of 15. Vibrant with hue, the finished effect of each print is that of a resonant tension between the stillness of death and the trembling, iridescent life that the individual butterflies convey. ‘The Souls’ is therefore quintessentially Hirstian, combining the impact of visual spectacle with a powerfully eloquent confluence of medium and visual language.
“This comes from an idea to fill the gallery with butterflies, an idea that I’ve had before. When I think of “The Souls” I think of Judgment Day and “Jacob’s ladder”. Many souls work better than one, so to hang them … and (to) use all the available space is a great way of doing it theologically”.
Hirst’s fascination with butterflies derives in large part from the way in which these beautiful insects embody both the beauty and the impermanence of life, becoming symbols of faith and mortality. Of ‘The Souls’ he has said: “I love butterflies because when they are dead they look alive. The foilblock makes the butterflies have a feel similar to the actual butterflies in the way that they reflect the light. After ‘The Dead’ I had to do the butterflies because you can’t have one without the other”.
Like Warhol and Bacon, Hirst is in many ways, primarily, a great religious artist. His work – as further evidenced by ‘The Souls’ – deals directly with the timeless and endlessly renewing predicament of faith and belief in the face of mortality. In this, ‘The Souls’ can also be seen to connect directly to the allegories of mortality to be found throughout the history of art. As the butterfly itself is a traditional symbol of the soul, and of the soul’s residence on Earth prior to transmigration to an Afterlife, so ‘The Souls’ surrounds the viewer – chapel-like – with an art which is as meditational and contemplative as it is aesthetically forceful.
About the Artist:
Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol and grew up in Leeds. In 1984 he moved to London, where he worked in construction before studying for a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths college from 1986 to 1989. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995
Since the late 1980’s, Hirst has used a varied practice of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing to explore the complex relationship between art, life and death. Explaining: “Art’s about life and it can’t really be about anything else … there isn’t anything else,” Hirst’s work investigates and challenges contemporary belief systems, and dissects the tensions and uncertainties at the heart of human experience. At Goldsmiths, Hirst’s understanding of the distinction between painting and sculpture changed significantly, and he began work on some of his most important series. The ‘Medicine Cabinets’ created in his second year combined the aesthetics of minimalism with Hirst’s observation that, “science is the new religion for many people. It’s as simple and as complicated as that really.” This is one of his most enduring themes, and was most powerfully manifested in the installation work, ‘Pharmacy’ (1992).
Whilst in his second year, Hirst conceived and curated ‘Freeze’ – a group exhibition in three phases. The exhibition of Goldsmiths students is commonly acknowledged to have been the launching point not only for Hirst, but for a generation of British artists. For its final phase he painted two series of coloured spots on to the warehouse walls. Hirst describes the spot paintings as a means of “pinning down the joy of colour”, and explains they provided a solution to all problems he’d previously had with colour. It has become one of the artist’s most prolific and recognizable series, and in January 2012 the works were exhibited in a show of unprecedented scale across eleven Gagosian Gallery locations worldwide. In 1991 Hirst began work on ‘Natural History’, arguably his most famous series. Through preserving creatures in minimalist steel and glass tanks filled with formaldehyde solution, he intended to create a “zoo of dead animals”. In 1992, the shark piece, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ (1991) was unveiled at the Saatchi Gallery’s ‘Young British Artists I’ exhibition. The shark, described by the artist as a “thing to describe a feeling”, remains one of the most iconic symbols of modern British art and popular culture in the 90’s. The series typifies Hirst’s interest in display mechanisms. The glass boxes he employs both in ‘Natural History’ works and in vitrines, such as ‘The Acquired Inability to Escape’ (1991), act to define the artwork’s space, whilst simultaneously commenting on the “fragility of existence”.
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