Damien Hirst: Relics and Fly Paintings - Gagosian Britannia Street

Martyn White

Posted on September 11 2021

The second instalment of a yearlong takeover at Gagosian Britannia Street, Damien Hirst launches 'Relics and Fly Paintings'


In a yearlong takeover of the Gagosian gallery's Britannia Street location, English Artist Damien Hirst launches his second exhibition titled 'Relics and Fly Paintings'. For this new iteration, the artist has clad the interior of the gallery in dark butterfly-patterned wallpaper that reproduces the kaleidoscopic presence of his 'Valley of Death (2010) painting. With an almost haunting atmosphere, the exhibition brings together a number of Hirst's bodies of work, prompting reflections on themes of darkness and death, the past and the future. 

Damien Hirst: Relics and Fly Paintings exhibition at the Gagosian Britannia Street Gallery in LondonDamien Hirst: Relics and Fly Paintings exhibition at the Gagosian Britannia Street Gallery in LondonDamien Hirst: Relics and Fly Paintings exhibition at the Gagosian Britannia Street Gallery in London

Hirst’s Relics are an exploration into death, a theme regularly displayed in many of his works. Cast in bronze, the works depict corpses, skeletons, and mummies in meticulous detail. Juxtaposing morbid realism with fantastical sources of inspiration, these bodies frozen in time emphasize the artist’s deft combinations of art, science, history, and religion. A collection of metallic Meteorites of various sizes continues Hirst’s engagement with the concept of the simulacrum and plays into the long-standing human fascination with outer space. 

Damien Hirst: Relics and Fly Paintings exhibition at the Gagosian Britannia Street Gallery in LondonDamien Hirst: Relics and Fly Paintings exhibition at the Gagosian Britannia Street Gallery in London

The monumental sculpture The Martyr – Saint Bartholomew (2019) follows the historical tradition of depicting its subject flayed alive as an écorché figure study, balancing biblical devotion with a similar reverence for the human body. While Hirst’s sculpture is a nod to this centuries-old artistic practice, the holy man’s solid stance and gleaming figure are also reminiscent of a robot or a modern anatomical model.

 

Adorning the walls are a range of canvases displayed in many shapes and sizes. From a distance, the works almost appear to be plain, painted to match the colour  of the wallpaper. Upon closer inspection, paint is not the medium of choice but real insects, more specifically, flies. The fly paintings again explore the cycles of life and the fear of death, their presence echoing iconic works such as Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915) and Richard Serra’s black paintstick drawings, among many other references. 

Damien Hirst: Relics and Fly Paintings exhibits at Gagosian Britannia Street until the end of 2021. For more information on the exhibition and the galleries, click to view the official Gagosian website. 

 

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