Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2002
The Spot Paintings vary dramatically in size, format, and diameter of coloured discs. Ranging from 1mm through to 60 inches across, and painted on varying sized and shaped canvas supports, these works have become utterly synonymous with Damien Hirst’s artistic practice. The concentric composition of ZDP imparts a mesmerising effect; our eye jumps from circle to circle through reverberating rings of spots. In a statement that utterly encapsulates an experience of the present work, Hirst described his Spot Paintings as “an assault on your senses. They grab hold of you and give you a good shaking. As adults, we’re not used to it” (Damien Hirst cited in: Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, Eds., On the Way to Work, London 2001, p. 220).
First exhibited in the legendary 1988 Freeze exhibition, which was held in an empty Port Authority building in London’s Docklands, the Spot Paintings touch upon the core conceptual cornerstones of Hirst's oeuvre: science, religion, and death. Named after pharmaceutical chemicals, compounds, and readily available prescription drugs, these paintings present a jubilant minimalist commentary on the seductive and palliative role of modern medicine. Commenting on the series, Hirst remarked: "I started them as an endless series... a scientific approach to painting in a similar way to the drug companies' scientific approach to life. Art doesn't purport to have all the answers; the drug companies do. Hence the title of the series, The Pharmaceutical Paintings, and the individual titles of the paintings themselves... Art is like medicine, it can heal" (Damien Hirst cited in: ibid.). The title of the present work, ZDP, is the abbreviation for Zhibai Dihuang Pill, a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat kidney deficiency, whose side effects and effectiveness are still uncertain in the Western scientific community.
Rational, medicinal, and forensic, Hirst's Spot Paintings are an aesthetic transmutation of the life-giving promise of modern science. Channeling Humanity’s obsession with science’s guarantee of health and long-life through a seemingly endless and clinical grid of candy-coloured spots, Hirst touches upon the core belief-system of an atheistic age devoid of spiritual sublimation. The clinical and rational structure of the present work is imbued with a sense of discipline and formal consistency that mimics scientific analysis, and yet, these ordered spots are entrenched within an artistic heritage of modernist formalism and American Minimalism. Thus, by fusing modernist abstraction with the optimism of modern medicine, Hirst’s Spot Paintings restore a sense of comfort and assurance once provided by art in its role as religious conduit.
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