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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London

Damien Hirst
B. 1965
NOTECHIS ATER SERVENTYI
household gloss on canvas
86.4 by 188 cm. 34 by 74 in.
Executed in 1999. 
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Provenance

Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner 

Literature

Jason Beard and Millicent Wilner, Eds., Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings, 1986-2011, London 2013, p. 201, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

“In Hirst’s Spot Paintings, every individual circular element within the canvas has a different colour, and this chromatic heterogeneity generates a subliminal and anxious disharmony, further reinforced by the infinite range of possible combinations in the composition and in the succession of the elements themselves."
Mario Codognato cited in: Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Damien Hirst, The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989-2004, 2004, p. 41.

Optically alluring and meticulously composed, Notechis Ater Serventyi is a mesmerising example of Damien Hirst's signature body of Spot Paintings. Uniquely-coloured chromatic circles, in seductive pastel hues, are aligned in a grid-like formation across the vast horizontal field of the pristine canvas. Without a given focal point, the eye is drawn in a restless, rhythmic, hypnotic dance across the pictorial plane. The artist has stated: “I wanted to find a way to use colour in paintings that wasn't expressionism. I was taught by painters who believed that as an artist you paint how you feel and I believed in that for a long time. And then I lost faith in it and wanted to create a system where whatever decisions you make within a painting, the paintings end up happy. And I came up with spot paintings” (Damien Hirst cited in: Jordan Riefe, ‘A Minute With: Damien Hirst on hitting the “spot”’, Reuters, January 2012, online).

Perhaps Hirst’s most iconic and archetypal series, the Spot Paintings comprise of nearly 1,400 works on canvas, the titles of which are taken from the Sigma-Aldrich Catalog of Chemical Compounds. This remarkable opus is divided into thirteen subcategories of differing characteristics, including the Pharmaceuticals (begun in 1986); the Radioactive Compounds (fluorescent spots, begun in 1997); the Antibiotics (spots spray-painted using stencils, begun in 2010); and the Venoms (pale or pastel coloured spots, begun in 1989), of which the present work is a resplendent example. Indeed, the specific venom cited by Hirst in this work's title refers to that of the Tiger Snake – a highly venomous species found in Southern Australia. Grappling with some of the most important themes and motifs that run throughout Hirst’s practice, the Spot Paintings probe the boundary between science and art in an attempt to further explore the human condition. Precisely and systematically structured, the Spots are evocative of medicinal pills and conjure a sense of society’s (ultimately futile) fixation on the preservation of youth, beauty and health. Hence, overshadowed by an idiosyncratic obsession with mortal transience, Hirst’s Spot Paintings remind the viewer that despite our desire for order and harmony, we ultimately have no control over our destiny. “Art is like medicine – it can heal,” the artist has proclaimed; “yet I’ve always been amazed at how many people believe in medicine but don’t believe in art, without questioning either” (Damien Hirst, I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, London 1997, p. 246).

The underlying gravitas of paintings such as Notechis Ater Serventyi is poignantly undercut by their compelling, vibrant and cheerful aesthetic. Indeed, tantalisingly and deceptively saccharine in appearance, the present work is imbued with a reflexive and knowing aura that epitomises Hirst’s thought-provoking practice.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London