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Hirst : mandalas in London

I went to see the Damien Hirst exhibition at the White Cube: Mandalas.

First of all, let me say that I have always been a big fan of his work. I went to Ilfracombe on holiday just because I wanted to see Verity and I am in love with Anatomy of an Angel. I like his thinking process, his research, his hand and mark. I like him a bit less since I follow him on Insta, which tells me a lot about “meeting your heroes”, but that’s beside the point. I mean, the whole trip to London revolved around me getting there before the end of his exhibition on Saturday!

I will be adding at the bottom of this post articles and reviews I found online.

But this exhibition left me quizzical. I like the idea, I like the finished product. Not to keen on the colour scheme chosen, but then again, how can you argue with the original wings. I am somewhat ok (really?!?) with the fact that those are REAL WINGS of REAL BUTTERFLIES. I can understand the craftmanship behind, the whole process and I don’t really think that it was him with his hands sticking all those wings together…

So, I am wondering why the exhibition left me quizzical… maybe it was the setting. I am wondering how would those pieces have been seen if they were somewhere else, more colourful and less aseptic. I think that they got lost… weird enough.

Anyway, here are some of the pictures I took.

And here are some others:

And this is to give an idea of how large the pieces are: massive! The details and precision are extraordinary!


And this is the setting you would have seen them:

Basically, I still have to work out what I think about the exhibition. In the meantime, I will proudly wear his T-shirt I lovingly bought in Ilfracombe.


In this mystical, hypnotic show, the artist challenges us to look afresh at the beauty of the universe – through the mind-bending iridescence of butterfly wings

Countless butterfly wings spin around Damien Hirst’s new paintings, in expanding circles of iridescence. These wheels of brightness seem to have a light inside them, a neon heart, but it’s just how the light in the gallery reflects off the wings. Ultramarine blue, fire orange, ebony black – the fabulous paint chest of nature is raided to hypnotic and alluring effect. Is this extravagant use of bits of animals unethical? If so, the Natural History Museum is a far worse sinner, with its millions of animal specimens. Ever since he started making art in the late 1980s, Hirst has claimed the same privilege for art that science has taken for granted since the 17th century – to pin the natural world to a table, to dissect and examine it. Except that his specimens are not explained or analysed. At his most imaginative, as he is in this show, Hirst metamorphoses science into sheer wonder. He wants you to feel the awe-inspiring miracles of life. What if you were in the sea with a shark swimming towards you, mouth open? Or a forest full of multicoloured butterflies? This exhibition reminds you what makes Hirst such a special artist: that manic impulse to celebrate, to praise, that in these mystical, ecstatic paintings soars to strange religious heights. What does he believe in? Can he say? But he has to worship.

Hirst comes on like a 21st-century Turner. He also resembles Matisse in the Vence Chapel the painter designed on the French Riviera. For this is an exhibition that worships light as reverently as those two prophets of colour. Yet Hirst unleashes hues neither of them ever managed. He can do that because his colours are not mixed on a palette but are a collage of the wondrous wings of insects. Appropriation becomes ecstasy. The wheels inside wheels of precisely placed biological remains that create these hypnotic shifts of shade and colour are inspired by the mandalas or cosmic maps that feature in several Asian religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism. He gives each of his Mandalas a title that fits its woozy psychedelia: Deity, Transfiguration, Radiance. He’s not leaving any doubt about the religious theme. Yet there are Christian as well as Buddhist implications. A wheeling pattern of blues and yellows is called Martyr and looks to me like a rose window in a gothic cathedral. The biggest and most stupefying work is called The Creator. Nocturnal butterfly colours arranged on a colossal scale create orbits that spill beyond the six-metre wide array of panels that hold them. Mandalas and rose windows were invented long before Edwin Hubble proved there are galaxies beyond our own: they seem to anticipate the discovery that space is full of giant wheeling discs of light. So the geometric splendour of Hirst’s curious and obsessive creations is an image of the universe and our place in it. Galaxies whirl while planets and asteroids follow their orbits through the solar system. All these orbits within orbits are suggested by Hirst’s epic aids to meditation, but at the centre of each is one complete butterfly. All the radiating intricacies of the universe are concentrated in a single delicate creature. The butterfly is an impossible thing, a staggering expression of life that flutters through a cosmos full of light and energy. It is one of art’s most worthwhile tasks to make us look at the beauty of our world – and if you open your mind to what’s on these walls, setting aside any prejudices about Hirst and his wealth, you’ll find an artist in awe of life. Exploiting nature? He worships it.

2. E Frankl : 1/5Like a naughty, petulant toddler, the best thing to do when Damien Hirst starts acting up is ignoring him. This time he’s acting up by ripping the wings off thousands of butterflies and arranging them into mandala shapes. Sigh. But people were queuing around the block for this opening of show of massive new works, so ignoring it isn’t an option and we might as well tackle it head on.

Across large canvases in both of the gallery’s spaces, Hirst – or Hirst’s assistants – has glued countless beautiful butterfly wings into household acrylic paint in swirling circular patterns. The wings are gorgeous, highly patterned, stunningly coloured. Some are iridescent, glowing, others are dark and sumptuous. The thing is, they’d be even more beautiful out in nature, attached to the bodies they grew out of. I don’t care about the use of insects in his art, I’m not offended, but he hasn’t improved the natural beauty of butterflies by putting them on a canvas.‘Oh but it’s a meditation on mortality and existence’– yeah, but that’s exactly what butterflies out in the wild are, you don’t need to chop them up and glue them in place to make that point, nature’s made it way better than Hirst ever could. And these just aren’t attractive works, either. They look like the sort of crap you get in seaside galleries in Whitstable or something, tasteless guff for tasteless people. I mean, just imagine walking into someone’s house and finding they’ve got one of these on the wall, you’d run a mile. I like a lot of Hirst’s work, but this new series has no redeeming features. It’s not shocking, it’s not clever, it’s not beautiful, and it’s not good. Can we all agree to pretend this culturally appropriative, ugly nonsense never happened and hope it goes away?

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