Damien Hirst’s exhibition at White Cube Hong Kong features cabinets and paintings from the Entomology (2009) as well as Scalpel Blade Paintings and Colour Charts, which form some of the Hirst’s newest work. This major new body of work serves to further Hirst’s life long investigation into such thematic dualities as life and death, desire and fear, beauty and horror.
The Entomology Cabinets and Paintings employ one of Hirst’s most iconic motifs, the butterfly, and re-presents them interspersed with thousands of highly coloured insects and spiders. Hirst was drawn to them because, like butterflies, they embody the fragility of life, retaining an iridescent beauty even when dead. In the cabinets, beetles, butterflies and other insects are placed in precise, vertical or horizontal rows inside minimal and reflective, wall-mounted stainless steel frames. With each species arranged in separate rows, the overall effect is one of scientific ordering or industrial production. The “Entomology Paintings” relate closely to Hirst’s earlier “Kaleidoscope” series but are darker in theme, alluding to zoological collections and titled after characters and locations from the “Divine Comedy”, Dante’s torturous vision of the underworld.
Hirst continues his use of scientific and medical iconography in the “Scalpel Blade Paintings”, placing thousands of different types of scalpel blades in mandala-like patterns. While both the “Entomology Paintings” and “Scalpel Blade Paintings” use assemblage and formal arrangement as their leitmotifs, the “Colour Charts” rely on colour theory as the organisational tool for their compositions. These works optimise the energy created by colour juxtaposition and employ a systematic approach to its application. Executed in brilliant gloss paint, using primary, secondary and tertiary colours, these bold, Pop-like paintings harness the power of colour to create canvases with a vibrant energy and optical beauty.