Damien Hirst unveils a new series of cityscape paintings with a black scalpel


Damien Hirst unveiled his new series of paintings in Brazil, following his world exhibitions at the Wallace Collection, where he showed a group of paintings of skulls inspired by Francis Bacon and his 2012 exhibition of “Parrot Pictures” at the White Cube Bermondsey. For his latest painting exhibition, Hirst created what he describes as ‘portraits of living cities’, the ‘Black Scalpel Cityscapes’ are made up of a large number of surgical instruments that combine to create views on the fly. bird from urbanized areas around the world. . With the series, Hirst explores topics relating to the sometimes disturbing realities of modern life – surveillance, urbanization, globalization and the virtual nature of conflict – as well as elements related to the universal human condition, such as our inability to stop physical degradation.

In the paintings, man-made and natural elements such as buildings, rivers and roads are depicted in scalpels as well as razor blades, hooks, iron filings, and safety pins, all on black background. For this exhibition, Hirst has selected 17 cities, which are either sites of recent conflicts, cities linked to the artist’s own life, or centers of economic, political or religious importance. The selection includes, among others, Washington, DC; Rome and Vatican City; Leeds (where the artist grew up); Beijing; Moscow; New York; and London. The particular history of each city is inscribed in its geographical distribution, showing how it has gradually developed and developed over the years. The paintings bear witness to Hirst’s characteristic technique of patterning, systematic repetition, and grids, used in earlier series, notably “Punctual Paintings”, “Color Tables”, “Entomological Cabinets” and “Kaleidoscope paintings”. This methodology is essentially an exercise in applying order to chaos, while recognizing that order or control are often concepts that remain incredibly distant in life.

The “Black Scalpel Cityscapes” refer to the military procedure of “surgical bombardment” or “surgical strikes”, commonly used in modern warfare, which aims to limit collateral damage by targeting specific areas to be destroyed. The suggestion of remote digital conflict inevitably reduces the tragic and devastating realities of war. Equally deceptively, the prospect of an aerial map downplays the life underlying a series of detached systems and models of collective existence; recalling the images used in the films Powers of Ten (1968, 1977) by Charles and Ray Eames, as well as the compressed, slowed down and time-lapse images of American cities in the cult film by Godfrey Reggio, Koyaanisqatsi (1982) – touchstones in the modern conception of city life. Hirst’s paintings therefore inevitably allude to the all-seeing eye, that of monitoring tools like Google Earth, now used by around half a billion people and whose roots can be traced back to a 3D mapping application used by the US military during the Iraq war. . The big question remains, does Damien really paint them himself ???

Hirst described the steel scalpels, which have been recurring in his work since the early 1990s, as “dark but at the same time light,” a reference to the visual appeal of the highly reflective and precision-machined metal, and the universal fear of the surgeon’s knife. Playing on pun elements surrounding ‘surgical strikes’, Hirst uses them here to dissect not only individual concerns about mortality, but also deep-rooted and society-wide concerns about surveillance, digitalization. of war and the sense of a distant Orwellian order and its imposition on our individuality. Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol, United Kingdom. He lives and works in London and Gloucestershire. Personal exhibitions include “Relics”, Al Riwaq: Museum of Islamic Art, Doha (2013); ‘Artists Rooms’, New Art Gallery, Walsall (2012); “Cornucopia”, The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco (2010); “No Love Lost”, The Wallace Collection, London (2009); “Requiem”, Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev (2009); “For the love of God”, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2008); Astrup Fearnley Museet für Moderne Kunst, Oslo (2005); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2005); and “Agony and Ecstasy”, Archaeological Museum, Naples (2004). An exhibition from the artist’s private collection, “Murderme”, took place at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2006 and at the Pinacoteca Agnelli in Turin in 2012. In 2012, the Tate Modern in London organized a major retrospective of the Hirst’s work to coincide with the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. He was awarded the DAAD scholarship in Berlin in 1994 and won the Turner Prize in 1995.

Damien Hirst, Leeds, 2014 Image courtesy of White Cube

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