The art of Damien Hirst
The aim of this essay is to discuss the art of Damien Hirst, with the crux of the discussion focussing on Hirst's infamous "Diamond Skull." The topics covered with be context, method, form and content, along with the associations that these convey.
Damien Hirst's most infamous art work to date, 'For the Love of God', diamond skull, is full of bizarre associations. Borrowing elements from contemporary pop culture (just as his predecessor, Andy Warhol did), the diamond encrusted skull is a reflection of this. The very fact that the skull is encrusted with diamonds mirrors the beliefs and perhaps non-beliefs of Western society today; the rampant and impersonal greed of the corporate world, the media, public and political obsession with celebrities (no matter how shallow), and the age-old obsession of money, power and status. Death is another major theme of Hirst's, or 'victory over death', as the artist himself said. The irony is far from subtle, which is perhaps why it works so well. Other themes could be life, decay, religion, reflection. Real diamonds rather than fake diamonds have been used, which adds dimension and pizazz. The main influence for this piece was Mexican skulls in turquoise. The title came from Hirst's mother, who asked, "For the Love of God, what are you going to do next?" Other works by Hirst have included pickled sharks and other creatures, as well as a three metre steel cabinet containing 6136 pills, entitled Lullaby Spring. Hirst acknowledges that one of his major influemces has been the work of Francis Bacon, who was also obsessed with death and decay, The art of Jasper Johns is another influence for Hirst, with death and skulls at the apex.
The method adopted by Hirst for the diamond skull is three diamensional sculpture. Taking an object which already exists, Hirst has then changed the object, morpthing it into a eye-catching, glittery converstational piece, by covering it with 8601 real diamonds, a major feat in itself. Hirst financed the piece himself, and it turned into a labour of love.Other controversial works by Hirst include pickled carcasses, eg, sharks and cows. Having viewed the video on Hirst in Lecture One about the artist, something about Diamond Skull jus sung out. It has a strange immedicacy and power. Damien hiself describes the success of this work as bieng "victory over death, with the encrusted skull having the last laugh.
The form of the work is both the media of the skull combined with the many precious diamonds. Attaching real diamonds to the skull also forms the method. The teeth have been left in-tact, and are without adornment. This helps to add contrast to the overall effect. Yet more method adopted by Hirst consists of three dimensional sculpture. Taking an object which already exists, Hirst has then created change to it with the addition of 8601 real blood diamonds. The actual skull is a cast of an 18th century skull which Hirst purchased in London. The cast is therefore life sized, and has been platinum covered. The controversy surrounding the work stems from the literal use of blood diamonds, sourced from Africa. As Andy Warhol did before him, Hirst is known to emply armies of nameless, faceless assistants. This is controversial in itself, as it does raise the question of authenticity. Hirst's works do not come cheap, and Diamond Skull fetched the highest price on record for any living artist.
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