Damien Hirst is the artist of the contemporary “memento mori”, i.e. the one who reads and represents a vision on death with its psychological, physiological and conceptual implications.
Hirts is that genius of contemporary art that cannot be understood if one does not go deep enough to look for the beauty that is not manifested in the obvious balance of shapes and winking lines, but in the sense of what natural, biological reality is and its relationship with human perception.
An entire existence is a chase after what will delimit and annul it, and in this time one can trace a conscious reflection if one is able to see how everything can be precarious and therefore how perfection or beauty are to be found even in the most gruesome expressions, in those moments that would otherwise be lost, that might not be seen in the right world, in the right moment to be able to make differences, to express a better judgment.
How does an artist of the horrid, of the blasphemous, of the unusual become one of the most certified in the history of art? We should ask the scholars of various artists, emblematic the case of Caravaggio no? Merisi was almost nobody, he became what he became thanks to his patron, Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte. Well, the same thing happened to Hirst, who, in 1991, after his first solo exhibition in London, found in the Iraqi-British businessman Charles Saatchi a great admirer.
Obviously, the right differences must be made, but the fact remains that art, especially the less recognizable kind, often has someone who “brings it”, who encourages it to manifest itself. In contemporary art, the aesthetic concept of a work of art is overturned, its value is extrinsic rather than due to its external expression, due to its persuasive charge.
In the contemporary world, persuasion is shock, exceptional news, pain and ugliness, war and the dead that become news, that do not destabilize but arouse curiosity, that are part of a flattening of values now fodder for mass media and social networks.
Hirst therefore finds a way that falls within the show of excess, as are several of his works from the production point of view, in which he fits in any case to give ethical signals, to give cathartic opportunities.
So the project “The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone who lives” was born.
Practically the story of a shark in formaldehyde that will be sold for 12 million dollars, a work that reveals the advertising intuition of a patron and the consecration of a top artist of the 21st century!
The blatant matching of one of the oldest animals living on our planet in its monstrous and spectacular entirety iconized forever in death.
A work that has had a following both because of the decay that forced the artist to practically remake another with another shark and also for the epigones such as the Czech artist David Černý that instead of a shark put in a tank full of formaldehyde the figure of Saddam Hussein bound hand and foot, work exhibited at the Museum of Young Art Ayoma in Prague.
So death is in the daily spectacle that we have through the images that arrive from all over the world showing war, hunger, disease and from which comes out the fear often mixed with feelings of horror, disgust and often even denial.
Hirst’s work of art is the intimate still image of a conscience that is in all of humanity and that must be shaken in order not to atrophy in the heterogenesis of its own ends that in a contemporary world could have catastrophic results.
Man cannot but look at death as a natural aspect, but must also observe it through its representation and accept it as an inescapable part of life.
Hirst is the provocative artist of the display cases and formaldehyde in which he exhibits his dead animals or parts of them, and his inspiration has its origins in a visit at the age of 16 to the Leeds morgue that filled him with wonder and left him with a fascination for the macabre forever.
There is almost a rite of initiation in the inspiration of some artists in which that trauma or that primordial element remains as inspiration, almost as if they must be predestined to represent that specific aspect of existence, in Hartung it was the lightning of a night, in Frida Kahlo an accident that made her understand loneliness, in Munch the untimely death of his mother, in Hirst it was his contact with corpses that gave him the exorcism of death, the strength not to investigate it, but basically to accept it.
In 1993 he arrives at the Venice Biennale where he exhibits “Mother and child”, two halves of a calf and a cow, divided forever. The motherhood as a classic subject of art that is terribly made clear upsetting all the canons with the intent to say that even an indissoluble bond given by procreation includes death.
Existence is a path where tragedy is the normality and this is exposed in another of his works “A Thousand Years”, a case divided into two communicating environments in which one is a case with the larvae of flies and the other a cow’s head from which they can feed and at the same time an incinerator lamp that will probably lead to death. Here the artist shows how life is born, evolves and can end at any moment. Reality has cruel aspects that we cannot hide from ourselves.
In 2007 the exaggeration of execution for “For the love of God” a platinum skull forged from the mold of a real skull covered with 8,601 diamonds of which the artist himself will say: “I always thought about what you can throw between the feet of death, […] so one day when I had a lot of cash in my hands I thought to make my own skull. The reason I like it has nothing to do with money. It’s that it looks so new and warm and inviting that it makes everything else seem okay, including death, which I think is a bit of an illusion…right?”
This artist remains one of the most followed and overvalued in today’s art market, a character of his time in which exaggeration and provocation are the real driving force behind the most avant-garde aesthetic experiences, those productions of the imagination that keep alive the dialectic on what is art and what is not, on what can be speculation or genius.
Hirst is a master of communication, his art is like looking at the marrow of the marketing of contemporary social fantasy, where the ephemeral and reality merge, where identity and cultural values open up to a global syncretism that masks difficulties, solitudes, where death itself can be expressed as a brand but cannot avoid at least a reflection on it.
A controversial artist who makes colored pills a reason to say how man simply in this way chases the utopia of salvation but inevitably meets the end, pills almost like candy, shining like precious stones, but you can not delay the end, everything always has a veil of precariousness.