Serenity, 2007, butterflies and household gloss on canvas, 223.5 diameter (framed), courtesy of The Collection of Art Partners, the Angel Collection of Contemporary Art and private collection, photo: Gordon Christmas
Damien Hirst's works, which are concerned with life processes and the cycle of creation and destruction, resemble scientific studies. His ideas about cycles of life and death and about survival are given expression in images of medicine cabinets, display cases containing skeletons, surgical tools and glass containers in which dissected animals float in formaldehyde - signature artifacts that have come to emblematize his provocative work. Butterflies have also appeared as a central motif in Hirst's work. Their short life span and beauty have endowed them with special meaning in many cultural contexts, especially as a symbol of life after death. In ancient Greece, they were perceived as a personification of the human soul (the word "psyche," in Greek, also means "butterfly"); in Christian art, they appear as a symbol of human vanity, death, or resurrection. The butterfly is also a symbol of creativity, desire and imagination - of youth, ephemeral beauty and the fragility of life. In 1991, Hirst first made use of live butterflies: chrysalises of Malaysian butterflies were affixed to monochromatic canvases coated with sugar water; the moment the butterflies broke out, they flew around the small space, drank the sugar water, mated, laid eggs, and finally died and stuck to the glossy surfaces of the canvases. In 2001, Hirst once again used butterflies in his works. Yet this time, chance was replaced by a meticulous and carefully calculated work process, which seemed like an attempt to impose order on a chaotic world: since then, the butterflies appears as symmetrical compositions with symbolic associations, such as patterns resembling the domes of famous cathedrals. In this work different-sizes butterflies were affixed to the round canvas in ordered patterns, as if fossilized in a state of solitude. Here and there, a flash of bold color endows the work with a sense of vitality, harmony and equilibrium.
Born in Bristol, 1965; lives and works in Devon, England