Damien Hirst’s retrospective of work is being shown in the Tate Modern once again. The dots are back, the formaldehyde is back and the pills are also in abundance! The rooms have been well organised, with occasional sightings of custom-made wallpaper, detailing the concurrent themes of the exhibition. It is confident that any interior designer would be in awe of the space.
The galleries are light and airy, serene and almost minimalist, but then this is broken by the bursts of block colour and macabre animal remains. So, we have a lot of death-related things that are seen, like the Vanitas diamond skull (For the Love of God, 2007), but this is retaliated by the lively gliding butterflies in one of the rooms, an incubated room, warmed up to replicate a suitable environment where real life pupae can form to later let lose a fluttering butterfly what was once a dormant caterpillar.
I’d say that the main themes observed are the collation of items, many of one, rather than one of many. This is seen in the enormous amount of cigarette butts, cubic zirconia crystals, DOTS and pills which match colours that are visible throughout the colour spectrum, as opposed to the normal white paracetamol tablets that are taken by pain-ridden patients.
Hirst’s work is very graphical, apart from his more expressive, colossal circular canvases, everything seems to be placed in a grid-like format, almost like each component of a piece could effectively be located by a grid reference. Most of these grid-referenced works can be found in cabinets and glassed containers. His coloured dots could also be referenced by a grid system as they seem to have been mathematically place on a lattice-type plane.
Levitation is also a key theme that is expressed. Whether it’s the formaldehyde encased dove, which isn’t actually levitating, but the bird has been made to look like it’s in mid-flight, or the more literal floating butterflies that I previously mentioned, to the floating ping-pong ball that has been kept afloat buy a hair dryer (What Goes Up Must Come Down, 1994) to the piece “Loving The World of Desire, 1996″ which is an even larger beach ball which is incessantly off the ground due to the powered air blower which is beneath it.
The pharmacy room is set up to mimic a real pharmacy, equipped with its own desk, chairs, and telephone, along with more cabinets with bottles and jargon-sounding medication. I particularly like the custom-made neon pharmaceutical logo on the wall, and the decaled emblem on the windows leading to views of the South Bank. This room is very white in colour and in a way brings to mind what a futuristic pharmacy could potentially look like.
The gold room with the shark is so striking. The gold wallpaper and golden coloured works aren’t that tacky gold, but it is more or less of a luxurious creamy gold. This is the room with the cubic zirconia lattice, “Fragments of Paradise” in it and one of the many cigarette pieces in the show.
I believe that this exhibition is a great show, especially if you are into graphics and anything that’s technical and science-based. The fusion of science and art is more than prevalent in these works and it’s almost like the Italian Renaissance, a time of great discovery and great art, has come again.
The exhibition starts Wed 4th April and ends 9th Sept 2012
For more information, please visit www.tate.org.uk