Thursday, 28 July 2011

Artist Rooms – Damien Hirst, Leeds Art Gallery 15th July to 30th October 2011


'The anatomy of an angel'

About Time Too! What took you so long?
Just why has it taken so long for Mr Hirst to exhibit in the city where he grew up and went to school? There can’t be many people in the country who haven’t heard of Damien Hirst. The 46-year-old Turner Prize winner’s outlandish artworks involve, a sheep suspended in formaldehyde (‘Away from the flock’, showing at the exhibition), spliced sharks and a human skull encrusted with bona fide diamonds, and he spent his formative years in Leeds. 
He is the artist people love to hate – but this notoriety has done him no harm. In fact, it has meant he’s become one of the most powerful and richest artists in the world. Not bad for a boy who attended Allerton Grange High School.
After school Hirst attended Leeds College of Art and Design before daringly exhibiting a 14ft-long shark in formaldehyde at the Young British Artists show in London, sponsored by Charles Saatchi. Three years later, he bagged the Turner Prize. Today his works command some of the highest prices in the art world.
The Leeds show includes photography, painting, sculpture and installation – as well as the iconic formaldehyde piece ‘Away from the Flock’, which was first exhibited in 1994 at the Serpentine Gallery in London.
As a school boy he collected dead things, and his carrier bag of corpses (insects, birds, leaves) was never far from his side. He also did work experience at Leeds city morgue. Therefore it’s not difficult to see where some of his inspiration came from. There is undoubtedly a distinct theme of death running through many of the works in this exhibition. However they are also beautiful and interesting and visitors should not be put off by this reference.
Highlights include ‘The Pharmacy Restaurant and Bar’ : A representation of the interior of the Notting Hill restaurant that Hirst co-owned in the late Nineties until 2003. Most notable is the molecule motif used throughout from the chair backs to menu covers and the wall paper combining references from the New Testament with images of pharmaceuticals in miniature. It is very cleverly done. Hirst designed the whole of the actual restaurant  interior.  Also ‘Mantra’ , butterflies and glass paint on canvas.  A visually stunning wheel of colour  comprising  butterflies of all shapes, sizes and hues. This is particularly effective from a distance. Finally  ‘Away From The Flock', The famous sheep in formaldehyde, and indeed the creature has been well preserved.
This exhibition is well worth the wait but disappointingly there is no catalogue of the works on view. Therefore I am in the process of creating one which will shortly be available on this site.
Artist Rooms: Damien Hirst runs from 15th July until 30th October and is part of The Artist Rooms collection, which, happily for us, sees collections of modern and contemporary art held by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland going on display at venues around the country.
15 July – 30 October, Leeds Art Gallery, free
'Away from the flock'

'Spot Painting'

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