Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Damien Hirst at the Tate Modern

Last week I shared some of my thoughts on the Picasso exhibition that is currently still running at the Tate Britain. As I have fairly recently become a (long overdue) member of the Tate, I have been taking advantage of the fact that members don't need to pay to get into the exhibitions. In just over a week I had made my membership pay for itself and now I have a year to look forward to free exhibitions, discounts and lots of fabulous art! Yay! 

Anyway, back to the actual subject... 

The week before last (on the 29th June to be precise) we went for a late evening at the Tate Modern. It's open until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays so we decided to go and see Damien Hirst. Once we had been round his exhibition, we decided to have some dinner and go on to see Edvard Munch which had only just opened the day before. As I have a fair amount to say about both exhibitions, I've broken it down... today you get my thoughts about Damien Hirst.

Damien Hirst at the Tate Modern

I've always been a bit dubious about Damien Hirst... I think it probably started when I first heard about his work. I must have been about 15 and it was around the time when he won the Turner Prize and all the controversy that came with it. The idea of animals being preserved in formaldehyde and being presented as 'art' has always been a little bit of a stickler for me as it just isn't my cup of tea really. So, while I did really want to see the Damien Hirst exhibition because I felt there was probably more to his work than what I had presumed, I also went with a slight sense of trepidation as to whether I would actually like what I saw. I have to say, there is a lot more to his art than just pickling a few dead animals. In fact that would be reducing his work to something inane and worthless. Whereas now, having seen his work, what I actually interpret from those particular pieces is the attempt to bridge the gap between art and science, showing that one can be both at the same time. I would not have come to that thought if it hadn't been for seeing some of his other works. I think Hirst is someone who you need to see as a 'whole' as opposed to selected pieces. Seeing his room of pharmaceuticals juxtaposed with pots of honey made me consider the merging between man-made, synthetic cures with those provided by nature. The vitrines (glass fronted display cases - I learnt a new word) full of tablets and pills set at regular intervals along mirrored shelves with a mirrored backdrop were so precise and amazingly well put together that I stood transfixed, searching for a pattern that I couldn't find but mesmerised with the details and how they worked as a whole. 

Similarly I loved his 'Spot Paintings' which use colour and form in such a bright, but yet controlled manner. And then there are the butterflies... I loved the exhibition 'In and Out of Love' - two rooms, one with huge canvases painted in a single colour with dead butterflies stuck onto the surface (I loved the canvases and the colours, not the dead butterflies), the second a humid atmosphere with live butterflies flying around the room. They were amazing! The idea behind them show Damien Hirst's continual revisiting to the themes of life and death and, while I'm not sure that a room of live butterflies is really art, I was held for quite a while and did spend a lot of time going 'oooh, look at that one!' Towards the end of the exhibition, the butterflies reappear - this time arranged into patterns that are again precise and complex. Butterfly wings are arranged in different patterns on a huge scale. Some remind the viewer of buddhist mandalas while on the opposite wall there is a triptych reminding us of traditional church stained glass windows. Again, Hirst has returned to the themes of life and death in such an innovative and unusual manner that you can't help but look and look. I have to say, I have totally changed my mind about Damien Hirst. I dislike the vitrines of animals, but there is so much more to his work than that which hits the papers. I am seriously impressed with his dedication to detail, structure and form (not to mention the number of cigarette butts he has collected over the years) and will be looking out for his work in the future. I can't say I 'enjoyed' the exhibition - there were a lot of parts that I actively disliked, but I have a new-found respect for Hirst and I loved other parts of the exhibition. Again, totally worth a visit and I'm very glad that I finally did go and learn more about him. 

Damien Hirst
Tate Modern
4th April - 9th September 2012
Tickets: £14 (free for members) 

1 comment:

Baban Cat said...

This is great! I went on Saturday and the same piece of work enthralled me. Lullaby, the Seasons is spectacular. I agree with you. Hirst's work can't be judged in isolation. The retrospective captures the development of his theme of life and death.


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