The butterfly is one of Damien Hirst's best known motifs in his ouevre, and the Love series is full of them.
Hirst’s long-standing obsession with the butterfly motif was conceived in the late 1980s, when he saw flies become stuck on primed canvases whilst he was working on the fly and cow’s head sculpture A Thousand Years from 1990.
The butterfly is among Hirst’s most famous motifs, emblematic of the fleetingness of life and the romance of death.
The Love series takes the optimistic sentiments of the Beatles for the prints’ titles like All You Need Is Love Love Love and fuses this with Hirst’s subtle reflections on mortality.
The Love series is reminiscent of Hirst’s series of paintings entitled The Four Elements (Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, Green and Blue) from 2005. These earlier works were the first example of the artist’s use of painted butterflies.
The screen prints in the Love series show the butterflies as though trapped on fly-paper. Works such as this were intended to ‘look like an accident of paint with butterflies stuck on it,’ according to the artist.
Hirst sees the butterfly motif as an idealised image that is separate from the hairy-bodied insect itself: “Pretty butterflies and pretty flowers and love. The image is so drenched in all that kind of stuff that the real thing doesn’t exist. When you see the real thing, it’s hardly Playschool, which I quite liked. Because I’d called In and Out of Love and my ideas of love are really similar. I do have the birthday-card kind of idea, and then there’s the harsh reality of life.”
Hirst describes the butterfly as being used by the Greeks to depict Psyche, the soul, and in Christian imagery represents resurrection. This gets to the heart of the human experience, according to Hirst.
The Love series shows an array of butterflies captured against boldly rendered hearts. Every butterfly in the square composition is unique and is depicted in bright, contrasting colours to stand out against the plain backdrop.
Speaking of his obsession with butterflies Hirst has explained, “I think rather than be personal you have to find universal triggers: everyone’s frightened of glass, everyone’s frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterflies.”
The Love series represents Hirst’s interest in combining hyperrealism with artificial colour and traditional methods of art making. Hirst has exemplified his skill in dealing with photographic themes in his work, notably beginning with the Fact painting series in 2000. Of this obsession with the photographic Hirst has explained, “Art has been in constant battle for hundreds of years with every other kind of image-making…newspapers are supposed to be about facts and truth, and you believe you get a true view of the world from these images when you don’t: they’re completely fake.”