While classic art has never done much for me, contemporary art is a whole other story – especially when it comes to art that goes beyond the concept of paint and canvas. I will always remember the day that I discovered Damien Hirst, not least because it was the first time that I actually recall ever realising that art did not have to bow down to convention and norms.
It was way back in the wonderful era of the mid-90s, and I was in my second last year of high school. I took art as a subject and did both art history and photography lessons after regular school at an art school (getting free periods at normal school to make up the time gaps). Art history, I found frustrating and stifling. I could never understand how we could write exams on something as subjective as art interpretation, and worse still, the classes were notorious for being boring beyond belief. Photography on the other hand, I relished.
One day, for whatever reason, we could not use the dark room, and so our amazing photography lecturer showed us a documentary on Damien Hirst’s Mother and Child Divided. This work, featuring a mother cow and her calf, in perfectly reconstructed slices, preserved and displayed in giant glass tanks, blew my impressionable, vegetarian mind away. I knew right then at the age of 17, that my entire understanding of art had been changed forever. Later, I would see his other work – the conceptual masterpieces like his life size tiger shark (aka The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living) and the modern art that showed his ability to bring magic to other genres.
The Thing About Contemporary Art…
So yes, I will always be drawn to contemporary art – no matter how famous or ‘iconic’ the masters are said to have been. The thing about contemporary art (to me, anyway) is not the price tag, value or fame, but the ability to provoke a response that goes beyond an auction hammer. And in this regard, Damien Hirst has never lost that ability.
Born in 1965 in Britain, Damien Hirst came into the world’s notice when he began his foray into conceptual art. As a student, he was one of the primary organisers of a Young British Artists exhibition in 1988 called Freeze, which was held in an empty London Port Authority building at Surrey Docks in London Docklands. During the 1990s, he made headlines (and more than a few shockwaves) with his vivid, often emotive installations. Over the course of the next few decades, he revealed equal talent across many other mediums. A comprehensive showcase of his work can be seen over on the Damien Hirst Artsy page, but the following works sum up what I love about contemporary art:
Beautiful Paper Spin for Situation Gigi
Psalm Benedictus Dominus
The Cure Sherbet Green / Royal Blue / Ocean Blue
Beautiful Shiva Delirium
His interesting subject matter, no-holds-barred use of colour, creative techniques and quirky naming of each work are just some of the things that I love about these particular artworks. But what I really adore the most about Damien Hirst, is his ability to evolve his art as each era comes and goes. From his early penchant for crazy warehouse shows, live conceptual art and formaldehyde to his surprisingly charming butterflies, adorned skulls and Warholish pills, his work inspires and amuses me. And that is my idea of contemporary art worth admiring.
What do you love most about modern art, and which Damien Hirst works have you enjoyed the most over the years? Share your thoughts below – I’d really love to hear what you think!