The flood of recent work on view by Damien Hirst suggests an artist in the midst of a bout of inspiration, pumping out a broad range of works that underscore his roving interests and consistency in vision across paintings, sculpture and photography. Yet his most recent series, Cherry Blossoms, on view at Fondation Cartier this summer, sees something of a step into a more contemplative mode, a point of reflection around which so many frenetically-charged recent works seem to orbit. The exhibition presents 30 paintings chosen by the artist among the 107 canvases of the series, all large-format.
Cherry Blossoms is a continuation of his career-long investigation into painting, embracing a playful irony and traditional subject of landscape painting as well as the great artistic movements of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from Impressionism to Action Painting. Started after an ambitious sculpture project, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, that took 10 years to make, the Cherry Blossoms series marks the artist’s return to solitary work in his studio. The works are something of a sensuous return for the artist, an embrace of the experience of putting paint to canvas, and these works bear that enthusiasm. Canvases are smeared and slopped with paint, hyper-kinetic in execution as the viewer draws closer to the works, and gives them the space to present themselves.
The pieces seem to incorporate a range of Hirst’s classic gestures and movements here, pulling from his dot paintings and hyper-loaded collages of once-living material, applying the assemblage of minimal elements into a swirling vortex of color and texture. Trees and foliage are built up from single dots, and the works seem to express the energy of Hirst moving from one work to the next before the paint dries, creating a sense of urgency that seems to well up then dissolve multiple times. Almost as if delving into a modern experience of the attention-deficient information landscape of modernity, the works seem to fade between contemplative pause and moments of manic energy.
Hirst’s work of late has managed to capture a distinct sense of the modern experience in a uniquely expressive manner, pulling the act of viewing and understanding into the visual field in peculiar ways. This mode continues here, emphasizing why he remains a fascinating and divisive vision.
The show closes January 2nd.
– D. Creahan
Damien Hirst, Cherry Blossoms [Exhibition Site]