Canon is a giclee print by Damien Hirst produced in an edition of 50. The print shows a circular arrangement of butterfly wings, entirely symmetrical and depicted in tones of cream, brown and grey. Hirst removes the butterfly wings from the idea of a real butterfly in the world by abstracting the wings into a decorative pattern with a cohesive colour palette.
For Hirst, the butterfly is a ‘universal trigger’ that many people share in finding attractive and joyous. Recalling someone once saying to him: “Butterflies are beautiful, but it’s a shame they have disgusting hairy bodies in the middle,” Hirst in works like this chose only to display the butterfly’s dazzling wings and not their bodies.
Speaking to the artist’s preoccupation with the concept that art mirrors life, his use of the butterfly motif has remained prominent throughout his career. Not only is each butterfly born with a unique pattern that mimics the individuality that frames much of human life, but the butterfly for Hirst symbolises growth, change, life and death. The butterfly motif appears both in printed editions as well as in installations where visitors are situated in a room of live butterflies.