Damien Hirst ‘Entomology Cabinets and Paintings, Scalpel Blade Paintings and Colour Charts’ White Cube, Hong Kong through May 4, 2013

May 3rd, 2013

Damien Hirst, Forbidden Fruit (2012-3), via White Cube Hong Kong

Damien Hirst, Forbidden Fruit (2012-3), via White Cube Hong Kong

White Cube Hong Kong is currently presenting Entomology Cabinets and Paintings, Scalpel Blade Paintings and Colour Charts, a broad exhibition of new work by British artist Damien Hirst. Through the three series on view, Hirst explores life’s dualities through the beauty and horror of both the Natural world and modernity.

Damien Hirst, The Judged (2012), via White Cube Hong Kong

Damien Hirst, The Judged (2012), via White Cube Hong Kong

The Entomology Cabinets and Paintings feature works from the artist’s 2009 Entomology series, presented with the addition of thousands of colorful insects, spiders and Hirst’s familiar butterfly motif.  The insect world, to Hirst, is an apt reminder of life’s fragility and delicate irony. Despite delicate wings and an enchanting iridescence (even in death), the harmonic pleasure of shapes formed by the work’s once living material also possesses a discordant counterpoint, the fear and repulsion many feel towards insects. As in other of Hirst works, precise grids become formal attributes of the cabinet works. The insects are positioned by species in orderly rows creating both a scientific and industrial atmosphere. This rigidity, however, is broken with closer viewing, upon which the viewer can spot slight variations and subtle asymmetry.

Damien Hirst, Forbidden Fruit (2012-13) (detail), via White Cube Hong Kong
Damien Hirst, Forbidden Fruit (2012-13) (detail), via White Cube Hong Kong

Scalpel Blade Paintings, a new series of work, continues Hirst’s interest in scientific themes by creating intricate, mandala-like forms with thousands of different scalpel blades. While some paintings are monochromatic, others incorporate free use of bright colors, yet all are visually influenced by the light reflecting off each precisely angled blade. The majesty of the blades, similar to Hirst’s use of insects, also play on our deeper fears. The initial comfort of the complex patterns can just as soon turn into discomfort as the scalpel blades become a violent reminder of the limited protection offered by our flesh, the experience of pain and the mysteries of the body.  One can link these works to Hirst’s instrument cabinets of the 1990s, where surgical instruments were used to create highly aesthetic works, while embodying medicine’s futility in the face of our inevitable mortality.

Damien, Hirst, Monochromatic Sectors from Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colours Ring, Light Centre (2012), via White Kong
Damien, Hirst, Monochromatic Sectors from Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colours Ring, Light Centre (2012), via White Kong

Breaking from the assemblage techniques of the other works, Hirst’s Colour Charts use color theory as a compass for their compositions. As in Hirst’s infamous Spot Paintings, juxtaposition of color combinations maximize a color’s individual energy field. High gloss paint brilliantly captures the potential of each primary, secondary and tertiary color. The usual calming order of the color chart becomes an existential question, begging the viewer to question what they know or think to be, thus tipping the balance that a color chart normally brings when placed in this gallery context.

Damien Hirst, Entomology Cabinets and Paintings, Scalpel Blade Paintings and Colour Charts (Installation View), via White Cube Hong Kong
Damien Hirst, Entomology Cabinets and Paintings, Scalpel Blade Paintings and Colour Charts (Installation View), via White Cube Hong Kong

In this latest exhibition, Hirst plays within his usual field visually stunning works that are masterfully artful in their creation. The patterns and forms produced by Hirst are often reassuring reminders of the underlying order humans impose on chaos, but are ultimately affective for their power to stir our senses and make us aware of the the darker corners of our pleasure.

Damien Hirst, Ptolomea (2012), via White Cube Hong Kong
Damien Hirst, Ptolomea (2012), via White Cube Hong Kong

Damien Hirst, Monochromatic Sectors from Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colour Ring with Dark Centre (2012), via White Cube Hong Kong
Damien Hirst, Monochromatic Sectors from Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colour Ring with Dark Centre (2012), via White Cube Hong Kong

Damien Hirst-Entomology Cabinets and Paintings, Scalpel Blade Paintings and Colour Charts, (Installation view), via White Cube
Damien Hirst, Entomology Cabinets and Paintings, Scalpel Blade Paintings and Colour Charts, (Installation view), via White Cube

Damien Hirst, Supreme Being (2012), via White Cube Hong Kong
Damien Hirst, Supreme Being (2012), via White Cube Hong Kong

—J. Schwartz

Suggested Links:

Exhibition Site [White Cube]
Artist’s Site [Damien Hirst]