At once visceral and visually arresting, Beautiful Autumn Painting
exhibits a spectacular and early example of Damien Hirst’s renowned Spin Paintings
, where colour, chance and kineticism powerfully defy artistic convention. Here, pigments in saturated crimson, teal, tangerine, and canary yellow compete in endless layers of spontaneous, intense action. For Hirst, the movement of these works “sort of implies life” (Damien Hirst cited in: Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, On the Way to Work
, London 2001, p. 221). Executed in 1999 during the most formative decade of the artist’s career, Beautiful Autumn Painting
illuminates iconic elements central to the Spin Paintings
series, including its elongated title and celebrated chromatic variation. Yet the present composition is remarkably rare in its singular allusion to white doves’ wings, a motif that is recurrent throughout Hirst’s widely diverse oeuvre. The striking white strip of pigment vigorously bisecting the canvas foreshadows Hirst’s later employment of taxidermy dove wings in seminal works such as The Incomplete Truth
(2006) and The Immaculate Heart—Blind
(2008). As a symbol of peace, purity, love and grace, the dove is an apt vehicle for Hirst’s existential meditations on life and death. The artist himself claims, “I have always loved extremes. I love polar opposites. Life and death are the biggest polar opposites there are. I like love and hate… happy and sad. In an artwork I always try to say something and deny it at the same time” (Damien Hirst cited in: Christian Gether and Marie Laurberg, Damien Hirst Arken Bulletin Volume 4, 2009, p. 33).
Through a destruction of preordained rules and above all an approach that oscillates between rebellion and jest, Hirst eloquently articulates the notion of uncertainty intrinsic to human experience. In the Spin Paintings the artist surrenders to chance as the rotating vortex of the machine controls a schema of polychromatic streaks. This process renders the final composition entirely unpredictable – a culminating image of spontaneity. Bursting with rhythmic vitality, Beautiful Autumn Painting spectacularly encapsulates Hirst’s playful preoccupation with the profound themes of life, death, eternity, and, perhaps most poignantly, the uncertain: “The truth is that there are many truths, really, but I think the truth is that we are here for a good time, not a long time. The truth is that life is short. The truth is that a lot of the time it is meaningless. The truth is that death doesn’t require us to make a day free. The truth is that things are out of our control” (Damien Hirst cited in: Christian Gether and Marie Laurberg, op. cit., p. 32).