Bold and precise, Sulfochlorophenol S, is a flawless example of Damien Hirst's signature body of spot paintings. Uniquely-colored chromatic circles, ranging from bright tones to pastel hues, explode in a grid-like formation across the vast field of the pristine canvas. The eye moves from one edge of the canvas to the other, unable to settle on just one color. "I just move color around on its own. So that's what the spot paintings came from—to create that structure to do those colors...Mathematically, with the spot paintings, I probably discovered the most fundamentally important thing in any kind of art, which is the harmony of where color can exist on its own, interacting with other colors in a perfect format.” (Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, On the Way to Work, London 2001, pp. 119-120)
The spot paintings are part of Hirst’s Pharmaceutical series which touch upon important themes and motifs that he further investigates in his greater body of work. The Pharmaceutical series reveals Hirst’s persistent probing of the boundary between science and art in an attempt to further explore the human condition; more specifically, society’s continued investigation and fixation on the pills and medicine that have been developed to cure whilst also taking the lives of the human body. Hirst titled each work in this series after a unique chemical compound. In systematic fashion, he named these paintings alphabetically according to the Sigma Chemical Company's catalogue, Biochemical Organic Compounds for Research and Diagnostic Reagents. ‘Sulfochlorophenol S’ is a niobium complexing compound, known as sodium calcium salt. Hirst’s Pharmaceutical paintings remind the viewer that despite our desire for order and beauty, we ultimately have no control over our destiny. “Art is like medicine–it can heal. 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 spot paintings underlying mortality is overshadowed by the bright and cheerful appearance of color. Indeed, despite his more notorious work in installation and sculpture, Hirst had always wanted to be a painter. He gloried in the variation of color, and loved his spot paintings above all for their exuberance. As Hirst stated, “I believe painting and all art should ultimately be uplifting for a viewer. I love color. I feel it inside me. It gives me a buzz" (ibid.)
Working with color and experimentation, another renowned series from Hirst's oeuvre are the Spin Paintings, where color, chance and kineticism powerfully defy artistic convention. For Hirst, the movement of these works implies life. Executed in 1998 during the artist most formative decade of his artistic career, beautiful, dark and erie void painting (with ghost of a milk splash) depicts iconic elements of Hirst’s Spin paintings. including its elongated title and celebrated chromatic variation. Since that time, each spin painting has been produced in the same way. Influenced by the postmodern privileging of chance and the aleatory, Hirst exerts a limited amount of control in the creation of these works. By pouring a succession of different hues of household emulsion paint onto a rapidly rotating canvas, Hirst creates variegated surfaces of gravity-informed color that bespeak the centrifugal energy of their execution. Emptied over the canvas in a manner akin to Jackson Pollock, Hirst’s application of paint combined with the mechanical spin of the surface is undeniably performative in its vigor. Through the mode of its creation, the present work exemplifies “the duality between a liquid or living state and a solid or dead one, capturing a sense of speed and material flux, which, however, is fossilized as soon as the canvas stops spinning and the paint finishes drying,” thus preserving in perpetuity “memories of fleeting moments of immediacy and intensity that have passed.” (Andrew Wilson, Believer in Damien Hirst, Ed. Anne Gallagher, London 2012 p. 205)
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