The aim of this seminar is to inform you about the art of Damien Hirst, with the crux of the focus being on the infamous Diamond Skull. This will be discussed in terms of context, method, form and content, along with the asssociations that these convey.
Damien Hirst's most infamous work to date, "For the Love of God" is full of bizarre and textural associations. Borrowing elements from popular culture, as did his predecessor, Andy Warhol, Hirst is making a statement with Diamond Skull. As with all of Hirst's major works, this pushes the boundaries. A diamond encrusted skull has many connotations, such as the beliefs and non beliefs of modern Western society. Examples of this could be the rampant greed of the corporate world, the media and public obsession with fame and celebrity, the Westernized gace of power, money, materialism and status. All of this helps to inform the context of the work, Death is the major theme threaded through Hirst's work. Another influence is Mexican skulls, encrusted in turquoise.
The title of the work was derived from the artist's own mother, who asked Damien, "Fo the love of God, wht are you going to do next?" Other controversial works by Hirst include pickled animals, as well as a three metre steel cabinet containing 6136 pills. This is entitled Lullaby Spring.
Having viewed the video about Hirst in Lecture One, something about Diamond Skull sung out. It pulsates with an immediacy and an intensity. Hirst himself describes the success of the work as being irony, "victory over death", with the gem encrusted skull having the last laugh. Hirst also works with the figurative idea of cigarettes and ashtrays, which links into the death and decay theme.
The form of the work is both the media of the skull, combined with the precious diamonds. Attaching real diamonds all over the skull forms the method as well. The teeth have been left unadorned. This helps to add contrast to the overall effect. Yet more method adopted by Hirst consists of three dimensional sculpture. Taking an organic object, Hirst has forced change onto it with the addition of tacky diamonds, which are of course, real. In total there are 8601 of these.
The context of the work involves death and dying, as well as life. The diamonds represent a polar opposite to the crudity of a naked skull. The artist is perhaps laughing in the face of death, or making a mockery of death. The context also entails echoes of the works by Japser Johns, Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol, who al worked with the themes of death, decay an the artist themselves as art. Hirst also harks back to ealier works of his own, works which catapulted him onto the international art stage, such as a dead shark pickled in formaldehyde, entiltled "The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living." This piece has become an icon of the 1980's British Art movement, which Hirst had a major role in creating. One of Hirst's biggest patrons is advertising mogul Charles Saatchi. It is of note that some prominent art critics have slammed Hirst's recent collection of oil paintings, mostly of skulls, rendered on canvas, and with no assitants involved in their creation. Extra attention was garnered when these were shown at the traditional yet desirable Wallace Collection Museum, in London.
As mentioned earlier, the works of Francis Bacon is believed to be a major contextual influence for Hirst, especially those works painted during the 1950's. Francis Bacon was heavily influenced by the dual themes of death and decay. bacon rendered this theme many times over in the medium of paint on canvas, using milky, unsaturated, blackened tones. Bacon was a mentor for Hirst, and is considered visionary and iconic, with a definate and lasting place in the canon of modern art.
In summary, Hirst's work is many things; iconic and daring, flashy and outrageous, unique and thought-provoking. As with all of Hirst's most infamous works, Diamond Skull pushes all the boundaries. Content, form, context and intent are all highly relevant to Hirst's works, with Diamond Skull representing and containing strains of these elements.
Thank you for your time, does anyone have any questions?
www. artblog.com, The works of Damien Hirst
www.ianclaridge.co.uk (image of the Diamond Skull
The Independent, "Are Hirst's paintings any good?" No, they're not worth looking at" Wednesday, 14 October, 2009, author not stated.
Damien Hirst on Youtube.com
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