- Damien Hirst
- signed, titled and dated 2004-2011 on the reverse
- household gloss on canvas
The all-pervading presence of death is the Hirstian trope par excellence. Cryptically hidden beneath the immaculate surface of 1-Heptene lies the deathly undertone familiar to the Pharmaceutical Paintings. In the early 1990s, Hirst started naming these paintings alphabetically after the exotic sounding substances listed in the Sigma Chemical Company's catalogue, Biochemical Organic Compounds for Research and Diagnostic Reagents. 1-Heptene is a volatile colourless liquid that is used as a catalyst and if ingested can cause irritation and respiratory problems. Thus, the potentially harmful traits of 1-Heptene mirror the quintessential précis of Hirst's eponymous painting: behind compelling aesthetic appeal and comforting geometric order lies hidden the inevitability of mortality.
Drugs have become the ubiquitous modifier of Nature: the remit of human existence is continually conditioned by the powers of modern science, from pre-birth sedatives dealt through the placenta, to near-death stimulants fed through an intravenous drip. When these works were first produced, the critic Jerry Saltz commented: "The names of these drugs conjure a vision of human misery and dread. With every drug comes a reference to a particular sickness, along with a list of side effects...These drugs form an analogue for the mysteries of the human body and its vast hermetic complexity" (Jerry Saltz, ‘Art in America’, 1995, in: ibid., p. 173). Disseminated via a simple schema of geometric logic, the controlled emotionless self-restriction of Hirst's candy-coloured grid belies an unsettling and fractured viewing experience: "If you look closely at any one of these paintings a strange thing happens; because of the lack of repeated colours there is no harmony... in every painting there is a subliminal sense of unease; yet the colours project so much joy it's hard to feel it, but it's there. The horror underlying everything. The horror that can overwhelm everything at any moment" (Damien Hirst, ibid.).
Hirst's complex dialectic, founded in themes of death and a confrontation of faith structures, is ultimately revealed through the cheerful simplicity of colour: "I love colour. I feel it inside me. It gives me a buzz. I hate taste - it's acquired" (Ibid.). His aim is to motivate an audience to think about the terms of their existence, to ontologically expose and undermine the avoidance of death by fully and poetically acknowledging its omnipotence; an impetus perfectly exemplified by 1-Heptene.