Damien Hirst, ‘Aminobenzoyl Hydrazide’, 2008, Martin Lawrence Galleries

D. Hirst, The Complete Spot Paintings 1986 - 2011, Other Criteria, 2013, p. 541 (illustrated in color)

household gloss on canvas
62 x 86"
signed, titled and dated 'Damien Hirst "Aminobenzoyl Hydrazide" 2008' on the reverse. Further signed along the stretcher and stamped and labelled by Science.

Begun in 1986, Hirst’s Spot Paintings have become an iconic symbol of contemporary art. 'I started them as an endless series, a scientific approach to painting in a similar way to the drug companies' scientific approach to life. Art doesn't purport to have all the answers; the drug companies do. Hence the title of the series, the Pharmaceutical Paintings, and the individual titles of the paintings themselves.' (D. Hirst, quoted in D. Hirst, I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now , London 1997, p. 246). In fact, works such as Aminobenzoyl Hydrazide are named after the pharmaceutical stimulants and narcotics listed in the book Biochemicals Organic Compounds for Research and Diagnostic Reagents published by the chemical company Sigma-Aldrich which Hirst came across in the 1990s. The very nature of this ever-growing project echoes the abundance of scientific research whose constant expansion is needed to further our knowledge on medicine. Furthermore, the orderly manner in which paint is applied in perfectly even circles suggests scientific taxonomy as well as a regulated sanitisation process where any colour contamination is prevented through careful separation.

Hirst’s minimalist and mechanical approach to separating colours on the canvas can be perceived as working in antithesis to the exuberant spontaneity of Abstract Expressionism that preceded his artistic training. Nonetheless, his style brings to the fore shared concerns about the materiality of paintings – where the flatness of the picture plane and presence of the medium is emphasised through the negation of illusionary depth or legible subject matters. In another way however, Hirst creates parallels with Pop Art through his appropriation of the spot that is heavily associated with Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings. Hirst even mirrored the artist’s sentiments saying his aim was to make the series appear as though it was made by '...a person trying to paint like a machine.' (D. Hirst, R. Violette, "On Painting Dumb," Damien Hirst: I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, London, 2005, p. 251). Nonetheless, what distinguishes the two artists most obviously is that for Lichtenstein the spot became a means to translate the cartoon format onto a canvas, whereas for Hirst the spot became a means to contain colour and by doing so, forms the basis of an abstract exploration into opticality and colour amalgamation.

Image rights: Martin Lawrence Galleries

About Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst first came to public attention in London in 1988 when he conceived and curated "Freeze," an exhibition in a disused warehouse that showed his work and that of his friends and fellow students at Goldsmiths College. In the nearly quarter of a century since that pivotal show (which would come to define the Young British Artists), Hirst has become one of the most influential artists of his generation. His groundbreaking works include The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), a shark in formaldehyde; Mother and Child Divided (1993) a four-part sculpture of a bisected cow and calf; and For the Love of God (2007), a human skull studded with 8,601 diamonds. In addition to his installations and sculptures, Hirst’s Spot paintings and Butterfly paintings have become universally recognized.

British, b. 1965, Bristol, United Kingdom, based in London, United Kingdom