I always say [my work is] about life, but I don’t know, I suppose it does dwell on the dark side.
Gagosian is pleased to present Relics and Fly Paintings by Damien Hirst, the second phase of the artist’s yearlong takeover of the Britannia Street gallery, following the inaugural exhibition of Fact Paintings and Fact Sculptures.
For this new iteration, the artist has clad the interior of the gallery in black butterfly-patterned wallpaper that reproduces the kaleidoscopic surface of his painting Valley of Death (2010). With its uniquely immersive atmosphere, the exhibition brings together a number of Hirst’s bodies of work, prompting reflections on themes of darkness and death, the past and the future.
Hirst’s Relics are memento mori: cast in bronze, they depict corpses, skeletons, and mummies in meticulous detail. Juxtaposing morbid realism with fantastical sources of inspiration, these bodies frozen in time emphasize the artist’s deft combinations of art, science, history, and religion. A suite of metallic Meteorites of various sizes continues Hirst’s engagement with the concept of the simulacrum and plays into the long-standing human fascination with outer space. The monumental sculpture The Martyr – Saint Bartholomew (2019) follows the historical tradition of depicting its subject flayed alive as an écorché figure study, balancing biblical devotion with a similar reverence for the human body. While Hirst’s sculpture is a nod to this centuries-old artistic practice, the holy man’s solid stance and gleaming figure are also reminiscent of a robot or a modern anatomical model.