Poster boy for the Young British Artists, Damien Hirst has always been fascinated with death and mortality. Till Death Do Us Part is a Warhol-inspired body of screen prints, forcing the viewer to confront the inevitable image and reality of death.
Throughout his career, the skull has been one of Hirst's most evocative motifs. Speaking to his fascination with death and the macabre, the skull is a universal symbol for mortality, and one which Hirst has interpreted in an array of media. For The Love Of God, perhaps the most famous of Hirst's iterations of the skull, is an illustrious diamond-encrusted human skull and his ultimate expression of the memento mori.
Across sculpture, painting, printing, and photography, death has always been the guiding subject in Hirst's oeuvre. This was a subject most controversially expressed in his formaldehyde works, but Till Death Do Us Part is a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the inevitability of death.
Much like the physical skull in For The Love Of God, the skull that forms the basis for Till Death Do Us Part is Hirst's ultimate memento mori. All prints in the series capture the skull head-on, as though its sockets were gazing out directly to the viewer. The prints are ghostly and uncanny, presenting the viewer with an eerie view into death. The series reminds us of our own mortality and the impermanence of all life.
Across the series, Hirst imbues each of his eerie skulls with life through his bold application of unnatural colour. Each work seems to dress death in an alluring fashion, temporarily clouding the the stark reality of death.
In his repetitive process of screen printing, Hirst mimics both the method and palette of Andy Warhol. The YBA appropriated the aesthetic of Pop Art to heighten the satirical tone of the entire portfolio. The skull appears much like Warhol's 'superstars' - with Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger and Mao among their ranks - to show what really lies beneath the veil of fame and excess.
Throughout his artistic career, Hirst has displayed his fascination with science and religion through his focus on death. His particular interest in pharmaceuticals, as we see in his Utopia series, speaks to this interest in ways of combatting death with science. In Till Death Do Us Part, however, death is an inevitable reality that must be confronted and accepted by the viewer.
The macabre title of the series alludes to the promise made between partners in their marital vows. With his focus on the head-on skull, Hirst avoids any romanticism, and reveals instead the bleak reality of the force that will inevitably drive couples apart - if divorce doesn't get them first.
Though Hirst's subject for this series is bleak and gruesome, he has rendered each skull with luxe materials that make a mockery of death. Through his use of foil block and glaze during the printing process, the skulls assume a dazzling reflective quality. The surface of these prints makes them almost mirror-like, confronting the viewer with their inevitable fate.
Popular from the 16th century onwards, vanitas painting littered the still-life with objects to remind their patrons and viewers of their mortality. Throughout art history, the skull has been one of the most repeated and central motifs of this genre. Given Hirst's near obsession with death and mortality, it is no surprise that the skull should form such a large proportion of his immense oeuvre.
In their almost mirror-like reflective quality, and their subversive bold colouring, these prints force the viewer to contemplate life and death. Hirst has always been keen to remind viewers of their own mortality, but Till Death Do Us Part makes death seem like an almost beautiful reality that unites us all.