WOW – Work Of the Week – Damien Hirst “Methyl Phenylsufoxide”

Methyl Phenylsulfoxide

Methyl Phenylsufoxide
41 x 64 in.
Artist’s Proof (A.P.)

Signed and numbered

About This Work:

“There are four important things in life: religion, love, art and science. Of them all, science seems to be the one right now. Like religion, it provides the glimmer of hope that maybe it will be all right in the end” – Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst has become one of the most prominent artists of our times.
Many of his works are widely recognized, from the shark suspended in formaldehyde, The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living, to later works such as the diamond skull For The Love Of God.

Throughout his work, Hirst investigates and challenges contemporary belief systems, and dissects the tensions and uncertainties at the heart of human experience. Hirst explores the complex relationship between art, life, death and religion. His work calls into question our awareness and convictions about the boundaries that separate desire and fear, reason and faith, love and hate.

Methyl Phenylsufoxide is part of the spots series.
The spot artworks are all named after synthetic and natural compounds in drugs and pharmaceuticals. Their titles are taken from the chemical company Sigma-Aldrich’s catalogue Biochemicals for Research and Diagnostic Reagents, a book Hirst stumbled across in the early 1990’s.
Methyl Phenylsufoxide is an important pharmaceutical intermediate, used in a variety of chemical processes.

The idea behind this work is completely based on color. Hirst studied color theory as every art student does. Color theory began in the 18th century with Issac Newton, who came up with a practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination. Hirst applies Newton’s theory of color to the spots and pairs them with the effect of the specific drug, by arranging the colors in a well calculated pattern and combination. The result is that, when viewed, the viewer subconsciously feels like he/she would feel if he/she took that specific drug.

Hirst explains that “…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”.

Hirst’s spots are amongst his most widely recognized works, with the Pharmaceutical Series being the first and most prolific of the 13 spots sub-series.
There are over 1000 in existence, dating from 1986 to 2011. The very first spot work on canvas is Untitled (with Black Dot) – the only Pharmaceutical painting ever to have incorporated a black dot. The spots artworks also vary in size from a 40 foot work containing spots of 1 inch, (Iodomethane- 13c) to L-Isoleucinol, which measures 10 x 16 inches and contains 25,781 one millimeter spots.

After having started with paintings, Hirst slowly refined his creative process. Any physical evidence of human intervention – such as the compass point left at the centre of each spot – was removed, until the works appeared to have been constructed mechanically. This is the reason why the printing process suits the spots even better than the painting technique.

It is pretty incredible how the images of the spots seem so simple, at the same time representing the product of such complex artistic concept and study.

In 2012, Gagosian gallery exhibited over 300 spot paintings in all their 13 galleries worldwide. The artist explained that the idea of an installation of multiple spot paintings, “it’s an assault on your senses. They grab hold of you and give you a good shaking. As adults, we’re not used to it. It’s an amazing fact that all objects leap beyond their own dimension”.

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